Just less than a year after her passing, Joan Didion’s personal estate came up for auction. Through November 16, “An American Icon: Property From the Collection of Joan Didion” at Stair Galleries, an auction house in Hudson, NY, offers an intimate view of the award-winning author and critic through 224 lots that represent Didion’s taste, style and sensibilities .
Those lots include fine art — some depicting Didion herself, her late husband John Dunne and daughter Quintana Roo — along with furniture, housewares and books by the likes of Norman Mailer and Joyce Carol Oates. Proceeds will benefit Columbia University research into movement disorders (Didion died of complications related to Parkinson’s disease), and the Sacramento City College Scholarship for Women in Literature, both chosen by Didion’s family.
The sale was led by New York-based consulting group Art Market Advisors, which approached Stair Galleries to make an offer for Didion’s estate. “We have a strong history of handling single-owner collections of notable people,” Lisa Thomas, Director of Fine Arts at Stair Galleries, told Artnet News. “We were delighted to be chosen.”
“We chose items for the sale that would help us tell the story of who Joan Didion was and how she lived in her private space,” she continued. “Every item in the sale has meaning in some way.”
The digital catalog notes that Didion and her family embody an intellectual, bicoastal brilliance that is translated into Didion’s writing—and her possessions. Upon seeing her parents’ new Upper East Side apartment in 1988, Quintana Roo reportedly remarked, “I hope you, California is done.”
And Didion, who grew up in Sacramento, certainly did. Among the lots is an image depicting a West Coast Didion atop her Stingray Corvette for photographer Julian Wasser shortly after the publication of Bend in the direction of Bethlehem in 1968. The author’s own art collection favors landscapes, nature and abstraction, with works by Jennifer Bartlett and Richard Diebenkorn that, as always, refer back to California.
Didion’s artwork also centers on “An American Icon”: her Victorian-style rattan chair, her XL-mate desk from California, and a set of unused notebooks—pre-loaded with potential—collectively present a picture of where and how she wrote .
Preview more of the collection below.
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