Lot Essay Nancy Drysdale (1931-2003) was one of Washington’s most admired contemporary art dealers. She played a pivotal role in the rise of the nation’s capital to the first rank of American cities for the display, and enjoyment of, the art of the late twentieth century. A discerning collector, Ms. Drysdale became a champion for a wide variety of artists over her twenty-five years in the industry.
At the Nancy Drysdale Gallery, she showed many leading artists of the day, with a special focus on those in the Washington area, including Jacob Kainen, Sam Gilliam, William Christenberry, Jim Sanborn and Lisa Scheer. She was an early and enthusiastic patron of the work of Martin Puryear, Jonathan Borofsky and Scott Burton, all of whom later became internationally prominent. All the artists represented in this sale were at one point featured in her gallery.The files for Ms. Drysdale’s gallery were acquired by the Smithsonian Institution’s American Archives of Art.
Ms. Drysdale was born and raised in Galesburg, Illinois, received her undergraduate education at Northwestern University, and settled in Cincinnati. She subsequently opened her first art gallery and became associated with, and ultimately served as, president of the board of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, which is now housed in the first American building designed by the architect Zaha Hadid. Ms. Drysdale moved to Washington in 1976 to manage the Washington branch of the Max Protech Gallery, which she ultimately purchased and renamed. Her decision to move her gallery to Seventh Street was a critical development in the creation of the city’s arts district, which still thrives today. She also served two terms as president of the Washington Art Dealers Association.
Ms. Drysdale’s collection stands as testimony to an extraordinary career in connoisseurship.