A little less than a year after her death, Joan Didion’s personal estate has come up for auction. Through November 16, “American Icon: Properties From the Joan Didion Collection” at Stair Galleries, an auction house in Hudson, NY, presents an intimate look at the acclaimed author and critic through 224 revealing lots taste, style, and taste Didion sensibility.
Those lots include fine art—some depicting Didion herself, her late husband John Dunne, and daughter Quintana Roo—alongside furniture, home goods, 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), and a 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 contacted Stair Galleries to make an offer to Didion’s estate. “We have a strong history of handling single-owner collections from distinguished people,” Lisa Thomas, Director of the Fine Arts Department at Stair Galleries, told Artnet News. “We were delighted to have been chosen.”
“We chose items for the auction that would help us tell the story of who Joan Didion was and how she lived in her private space,” he continued. “Every item in the sale has meaning in some way.”
The digital catalog notes that Didion and her family embodied an intellectual, bicoastal glamor that was passed down to Didion’s work — and her property. After seeing her parents’ new apartment on the Upper East Side in 1988, Quintana Roo said, “I hope you’ll be in California.”
And Didion, who grew up in Sacramento, certainly did. Among the lots is an image depicting Didion’s West Coast, atop her Stingray Corvette for photographer Julian Wasser shortly after publication Flood towards Bethlehem in 1968. The author’s own art collection favors landscapes, nature, and the abstract, with works by Jennifer Bartlett and Richard Diebenkorn reaching, as always, back to California.
Didion’s craft also centers on the “American Icon”: her Victorian-style rattan chair, her partner XL’s desk from California, and a set of unused notebooks—preloaded with potential—together offer a picture of where and how he wrote.
Preview more of the collection below.
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