DELRAY BEACH, FLA. – Daphne Farago died on July 23. She was born March 8, 1924, in Johannesburg, South Africa, the elder daughter of Rachel (Berkowitch) and Hyman Arcus.
Daphne’s love of the arts inspired her as a docent at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum of Art in the early 1960s. A self-taught collector, she initially focused on American folk art and furniture. By the mid 1970s, Daphne was highly regarded in the field. RISD Museum of Art established an exhibition center in her name.
She began a new second collection of contemporary craft, specializing in jewelry, glass, ceramics, fiber and furniture. Daphne was an early benefactor and supporter of artists, including Dale Chihuly, Ken Price, Sam Maloof, John Cederquist, Michael Glancy, Louis Mueller, Claus Bury and Wendell Castle. In recent years, she donated hundreds of works to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which established the Daphne and Peter Farago Gallery to memorialize the gifts. As a collector, she was known for her discerning eye and her ability to identify the most important work of emerging artists who became leaders in their fields. She favored lyrical forms inspired by the essential beauty and curiosity of the human experience. It was her desire to share her vision with the public, through her donations to museum collections.
Daphne met Peter Farago in Europe after Word War II. As part of the relief effort, they worked to assist displaced persons. She emigrated first to Montreal, and then to the United States in 1950. Following their marriage in 1951, Daphne and Peter settled in Providence, R.I., where they raised their family. Daphne cherished their summer home in Little Compton, on the shore of the Sakonnet River and Narragansett Bay. They had also resided in Marathon, Key West and Key Biscayne, Fla.
“It is with great sadness that we learned about the very recent passing of Daphne Farago,” said Libby and JoAnne Cooper of Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge, Mass. “We first met Daphne in the 1980s when Stephen Score, the well-known antiques dealer, introduced her to Mobilia Gallery in the quest for beautifully crafted contemporary art objects. It was the beginning of a very long friendship and collaboration.
“One of the great contemporary craft collectors and patrons, Daphne passionately sought and purchased only the very best works by artists in textiles, glass, ceramics, jewelry and furniture. She always welcomed suggestions and was eager to look at new work.
“We fondly remember spending many Sundays and Mondays driving down to the Farago home in Little Compton with a car packed full of artwork. Many hours were spent discussing the work and finally walking around the house with Daphne looking for the perfect spot to place the next acquisition. Her husband, Peter, was always in the background commenting about the art with a great sense of humor.
“Daphne was named one of the top 100 art collectors in the world by Art News Magazine. Three separate donations of her extensive collection were made in 2007, 2011 and 2013 to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, including more than 600 pieces of studio jewelry and 120 textiles and baskets by the late Ed Rossbach and his wife Katherine Westphal. Concurrently, Daphne established the Farago Lecture on Jewelry Series at the MFA, which is a yearly event focusing on art jewelry presentations by leaders in the field. Selections from the Farago collection can currently be seen in various galleries throughout the MFA, including the Farago Gallery.
“We will miss Daphne dearly but take comfort in knowing that the pieces she loved and lived with are in a special home and will be enjoyed by future generations.”
“Daphne Farago came into my life like a whirlwind; but, it didn’t start well,” recalled Boston-based antiques dealer Stephen Score. “In 1973-74, Eleanor and I sold folk art from our apartment at 25 Marlborough Street, in the Back Bay.
“One day, I got a telephone call from a woman with an accent that might have been English, alerting me of her imminent arrival from Providence the very next day to dine at the Ritz with friends. Could she come after lunch? Yes, she could.
“She never showed up.
“Days later, reluctantly, skeptical, I agreed on a day the next week.
“At precisely the appointed hour, Daphne Farago swept through the door, a wonderfully stylish, absolutely confident woman, who proceeded to look over 10, 11 or 12 beautiful pieces of American folk art. A breath of fresh air and energy. Would it hold up? Would I?
“As she was leaving for another social engagement, she said she would take everything.
“That was the beginning.
“Daphne Farago was a force to be reckoned with. She had wonderful taste – often instinctive – and an interest in unconventional art.
“It was a privilege to come to look at things together. She might take six of the most beautiful Rhode Island Windsor brace back chairs ever seen and place them around a modern, minimal white Saarinen table that made them look even more sculptural.
“I sold her Captain Starbuck from the Stewart Gregory collection and she promptly put him on her kitchen counter next to an orange juice machine. These were stylishly homely, no-nonsense decisions that appealed to me.
“Daphne Farago reminded me of some of the powerful women in American folk art – women who made up their own minds without constantly imploring their successful husbands – if they had them – Nina Fletcher Little, Florine Maine, Lillian B. Cogan, Mary Allis, Helen Kellogg, Adele Earnest, Judy Lennet, Pam Boynton, Barbara Pollack, Joy Piscopo, Nan Gurley and Judy Milne.
“Years later, Daphne’s collection was advantageously sold for the benefit of the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design.
“We had both kept one another on our toes.”
Daphne’s gifted eye and unerring taste in Twentieth Century studio jewelry was further celebrated in a book Jewelry By Artists in the Studio 1940-2000, a compelling reference dedicated to the collection and published by the MFA. In June 2013, contemporary glass from Daphne’s collection was auctioned at Bonhams, including works by Michael Glancy and Dale Chihuly, and American folk art and furniture from her collection was sold to benefit RISD Museum in February 1991 at Sotheby’s.
Daphne survived Peter and her sister Myra Goldberg. She leaves three children – Alan Farago and Lisa Versaci Farago, of Coral Gables, Fla.; Paul and Michelle Farago of Asheville, N.C.; and Robert Farago, of Austin, Texas, nine beloved grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
Services were private. Donations in her name, used for art education, will be gratefully accepted: The Daphne and Peter Farago Fund, RISD Museum, 224 Benefit Street, Providence RI 02903.