The Art That Inspired Joan Didion Goes to Auction

Essayist and novelist Joan Didion became an American icon through her ability to turn an unflinching and observant eye onto any subject, whether it be the counterculture scene of the 1960s in her home state of California (Slouching Towards Bethlehem, 1968), or her own significant pain over the loss of husband and daughter in the same year (The Year of Magical Thinking, 2005). Her prose is precise and evocative, in the form of personal essays, pithy political explainers, novels, and screenplays — several of which she collaborated on with her husband, John Gregory Dunne. Her death late last year at the age of 87 was mourned by many as the passing of a legendary scribe of her age.

For those with a Didion-shaped hole in their hearts, an upcoming sale of her estate at Stair, an auction house in Hudson, New York, is a chance to come as close as possible to the famed writer. An American Icon: Property From the Collection of Joan Didion” will offer selections of fine art, home decor, furniture, and books from Didion’s personal abodes. The auction is set to take place on November 16 with a full catalog debuting on October 31. There will be a public gallery exhibition in Hudson, beginning on November 4, for those who want to see the items in question.

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A catalogue with the complete auction offerings will be available October 31.

“We are thrilled to be offering property from the collection of Joan Didion at auction,” said Colin Stair, president of the auction house, in a statement about the upcoming event. “It is an honor to be in the home where one of America’s great writers lived and worked, and to curate a sale of her fine art and personal property.”

According to the auction house, highlights from the sale include artworks by Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Ed Ruscha, Jennifer Bartlett, Vija Celmins, Patti Smith, and Eric Fischl. There will also be various portraits of Didion, taken by Brigette Lacombe, Annie Liebovitz, Mary Ellen Mark, and Julian Wasser. More personal items include selections from her book collection, two different writing desks, and collectibles from the couple’s travels.

Furnishings from Didion’s apartment include a large partner’s desk from California, a Late Regency Pembroke table, and an American writing desk.

“Once we did our initial walkthrough, we could see themes and commonalities between her work, her writing, the art she collected, and then the objects and things that she lived with,” Lisa Thomas, Stair’s fine art specialist, told Architectural Digest. “It all just really told the story of who she was as a person, how she wrote, and what was important to her.”

Didion knew better than anyone how hard it is to say goodbye to all that, but anyone finding it hard to say goodbye to her memory can look forward to the Stair auction, and a chance to find something of hers to hold onto.


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