Art & Auction
“The Insiders: Annual Survey of the Art World’s Most Powerful People”
David Wheatcroft Over the past 20 years or so, Westborough, Massachusetts, dealer David Wheatcroft has slowly and ever so quietly climbed to the top rung of dealers in American Folk Art – not by buying his way with a wealthy backer’s money or using part of Granddaddy’s trust fund, but the old-fashioned way: He learned it. Today Wheatcroft sells to and represents at auction some of the most important collectors in the field, including Joan Johnson of Philadelphia and Ralph Esmerian, chairman of the American Folk Art Museum in New York. Wheatcroft began “fooling around” with antiques while in graduate school at the University of Iowa, buying broken chairs at auction that he would fix up and sell at yard sales. Eventually he went into business for himself, starting out with a $500 loan from his father-in-law, and he’s been “ratcheting up, buying better and better,” as he puts it, ever since. Typical of the high-quality works Wheatcroft is known for is a great Joseph H. Davis watercolor of a young doctor and his family that he recently sold for a price in the low six figures. One of his exciting recent finds is an outstanding circa 1830 street scene that he identified through exhaustive research as a work by the folk painter Nirem Stone depicting Kingston, New York. Most of what you find in Wheatcroft’s shop is his, rather than on consignment. He prefers owning his inventory, he says, because “if you make a mistake, you’ll never forget it.” Wheatcroft keeps a deliberately low profile and is not especially well-known to the public, but among his peers in the field, he is held in the highest regard. As one curator with extensive knowledge of folk art remarks, “David is the equivalent of a stealth bomber. He has learned in earnest, made mistakes in his progress and now unassumingly dominates the field.”
“Buying a Piece of The Kingdom”
By Wendy Moonan
“Dealers to Know”
DAVID WHEATCROFT: Knowledgeable, passionate, and a pleasure to work with, he advises some of the biggest collectors in the folk art world yet remains very down-to-earth.