WHERE, WHY, WHO
DRYADS GREEN GALLERY
Our gallery is located in New York City, giving us easy access to all major auctions, including Sotheby's, Christie's, Bonham's, Doyle New York and others. New York is also the home of collectors who add to our sources. Of course, we also scour the web looking for distant auctions where bargain acquisitions can be found. You may visit us by appointment only. But we are happy to hold paintings for your inspection when you are next in town. Our name comes from a lane in Northampton, Massachusetts. which begins at Paradise Road on the Smith College campus and briefly crosses into the town itself, just where we first opened more than twenty years ago. Now we are totally web-oriented. Green in our name, signifies meadow, and Dryads are the mythological tree nymphs, originally from drys for oaks, who dance on the green. The lane does skirt a patch of green with a maypole once used by students for a dance celebrating the return of Spring--just imagine the painting that would have made!
We cite ten strong new reasons to buy American Art. The first being that prices are up. Masterpiece American art is in demand and prices have firmed (1). Our review of recent auctions is clear about this. New highs are advancing, and new records are being set. Oscar Bluemner's, Red Farm in New Jersey, sold for $5,346,500--setting a record and adding to rising interest. A number of reasons underlie the favorable trend--which is benefiting from the current economy. Second is relative price stability (2). When it comes to volatility, American art relative to Contemporary Art and European Modernism is a low beta asset class. That means its price swings are comparatively moderate and that it hugs the rising trendline more closely. New collectors are attracted to this price stability as they exit volatile hedge funds. And do note (3) the persistent low-yield financial environment--since conservative yield-oriented investors can't scratch up a penny's worth of interest, many obviously think it's better to cut risk, enjoy the beauty of American art and wait for new inflation and rising demand. RISING RATES aren't likely to go high enough to change this picture. Increasingly then, American art is becoming an investment of choice. Many homeowners are staying put and improving their castles (4), which means greater demand for paintings overall. Simply put, masterpiece American paintings are much more beautiful than a gold bar.
We were sitting at the auction when Hopper's The Bridle Path brought $10,386,500. That is a clear indication of rebounding prices. His Chop Suey went for $91.8 million. helping to raise estimates across the board. Norman Rockwell went into double-digit millions. But this was nothing compared to his Saying Grace topping $46 million. Then we watched O'Keeffe's Jimson Weed top $44 million. The growing interest in American Art is a signal of new attention for these masterpieces. First and foremost in raising attention was (5) the opening of the new American wing at New York City's Metropolitan Museum. The event was eagerly anticipated and advance knowledge of its contents brought higher prices from dealers speculating on stronger demand. A new room featuring Thomas Hart Benton's New School murals is a huge draw! This accelerated a trend sparked when Boston's Museum of Fine Art opened its new American quarters. Indeed scarcity (6) of high quality offerings is another reason for current higher demand--good pickings are slim as one dealer remarked to us. The dealer community was well aware that one of the central features of the new Met wing was the giant canvas of Washington Crossing the Delaware by the history painter Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze--so note that Leutze went on to set new records. Overall, collectors appeared to be responding to (7) a focus on American history. Even New York's long hibernating Historical Society Museum got into the act with a once in a century major revamp! And word came from Boston that Constantino Brumidi's study for The Apotheosis of Washington set a new world record for the highest price ever paid at auction for work by the artist. The study was sold to the Smithsonian's American Art Museum for $539,500, exceeding its estimated high of $350,000. The fresco, for which this painting is the final study, is found on the ceiling of the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building and is considered to be the Italian-born Brumidi's masterpiece. It is widely thought to be the most important fresco in America. The previous record for a work by Brumidi was $21,000, for, fittingly enough, a portrait of George Washington.
Overall the economy is driving new money into the American art market. Our advertisements for the last three years have been telling collectors to buy Wolf Kahn, prior to his passing in 2020. During this period, his top price at auction, first went over $100,000, and has since risen to 212,000. But the new money is putting safety first. It is tightly focused--wanting only the best of the best and sticking with the historical track record. In the recent just ended auction round, this was particularly evident in sales of the great American neoclassic realist Martin Johnson Heade. Buyers were willing to pay more than a million for classic Heade works depicting orchids and hummingbirds--but his lesser still-lifes of flower arrangements and more mundane landscapes struggled to reach a hundred thousand. Collectors are very tightly focused, and they want something American! Narrative studies by Brown, particularly showing historical narrative or scenes showing poverty urchins in humorous poses continue to attract new buyers, who are (8) much less interested in abstract expressionism. New buyers would rather hire a knowledgeable dealer to bid on classic American art rather than risk getting stuck with abstraction--in the form of over-priced private visions without universal appeal. Media hype has finally spawned a backlash--no matter how high some collectors want to pay.
The web is at work too. Discount brokers were once unknown in the stock market. Now they account for most of retail trading by self-directed investors. And the web is having the same impact on the American art auction market. More and more new money is spent on (9) web purchases of American masterpiece paintings. Our own success as a gallery is a testament to this trend. In the past--now the ancient past--the major auction houses sold almost exclusively to galleries, and these transactions were shrouded in high-priest mystery. Collectors from the hinterlands toured brick and mortar palazzo metropolitan galleries off Madison Ave and paid through the nose for their purchases and the imprimatur. We were once advised by a gallery owner not to purchase at auction--only to find the same gallery owner bidding against us--and then we discovered a mark-up that was shocking to say the least. Those days are dying--particularly as internet transparency makes price information widely available to collectors. Web galleries (10) can make value-oriented collectors a lot happier when it comes to future appreciation potential. New demand for American art is being satisfied in new ways--with shared benefit for all.
The managing director of Dryads Green Gallery is Thomas L. Ashton (Ph.D. Columbia Univ.). During an earlier academic career he held fellowships from the Huntington Library, the Pforzheimer foundation, the CORO foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. After a stint as Scholar in Residence at Atlantic Richfield, and in public service, he returned to New York City, to work as Senior Editor of Chief Executive magazine, the major business leadership publication. He continued as a consultant and advisor in financial services, and for many years worked in the area of investment strategy and portfolio management at Prudential Securities, Salomon Bros., and chiefly at U.S. Trust. He went on to found Dryads Green Gallery, which was originally built on his American art collection. A former member of Salmagundi, he now serves on the Curatorial Committee of the National Arts Club, and holds memberships at the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the Crystal Bridges Museum.