Joan Didion estate sale: the Wallpaper* highlights

‘An American Icon: the Collection of Joan Didion’ estate sale by Stair Galleries takes place on 16 November 2022: bid now

Photographs and objects from the Joan Didion estate sale
(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

It’s not often a person going about their business becomes a figurehead of cultural significance, revered across generations, continents, and not only throughout but after their lifetime. Certainly, the writer and critic Joan Didion might have been surprised by the notoriety that she continued receive long after her busiest writing days, notably being cast, aged 80, in a Celine campaign wearing her signature pair of dark sunglasses. 

Didion died on 23 December 2021, aged 87. Her popularity has been a catalyst for the sale of her deeply personal collection of paintings, photography, writing tools, furniture, books, and knick-knacks collected on her travels. Empty notebooks, a handful of shells, and sets of silver cutlery are amongst the most intimate of the objects. Elsewhere, gifts and items from notable friends, such as a Patti Smith photograph (the singer was one of the speakers at Didion’s memorial service in Manhattan earlier this year), etchings by Ed Ruscha and a lithograph by Cy Twombly, add gravitas to the assortment. 

The collection is being sold by Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York on 16 November 2022, 11am ET. Bidding has already started, and the auction house will not be allowing visitors in person on the final day of the sale, but enthusiasts can visit prior and watch a live stream of the event via the Stair website. 

Meanwhile, here are Wallpaper’s highlights.

Joan Didion Estate Sale: 11 highlights

The timeless classic 

Joan Didion portraits by Brigitte Lacombe

(Image credit: Brigitte Lacombe, Courtesy Stair Gallery)

Brigitte Lacombe (b. 1950): two portraits of Joan Didion

The iconic investment 

Celine sunglasses from the Joan Didion Estate Sale

(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

Pair of Celine faux tortoiseshell sunglasses

The overlooked gem 

Abstract painting from Joan Didion Estate Sale

(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

Helen Marden (b. 1941): Untitled

The unexpectedly desirable 

Notebooks lined up

(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

Group of 13 blank notebooks

The ‘worth it in its own right’

Framed photograph of the sea

(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

Vija Celmins (b. 1938): Drypoint-Ocean Surface

The personal pick-up 

Patchwork quilt

(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

American patchwork quilt, mounted

The writer’s tool 

Writing desk

(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

George III-style inlaid mahogany cylinder writing desk

The significant metaphor 

Clock from Joan Didion Estate Sale

(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

Cartier brass desk clock

The snapshot of a life 

Photographs and desk object

(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

 Group of desk articles

The power piece 

Framed artwork by Robert Rauschenberg from Joan Didion Estate Sale

(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008): L.A. Flakes--11,000', and Rising

The leftovers legacy

Le Creuset pots from the Joan Didion Estate Sale

(Image credit: Courtesy Stair Gallery)

Le Creuset enamelled cast-iron Dutch ovens, sauté pans and other wares

‘An American Icon: the Collection of Joan Didion’ is currently on view at Stair Galleries. Auction closes on 16 November at 11am ET / 4PM GMT

549 Warren Street
Hudson, New York 12534

Tilly is a British writer, editor and digital consultant based in New York, covering luxury fashion, jewellery, design, culture, art, travel, wellness and more. An alumna of Central Saint Martins, she is Contributing Editor for Wallpaper* and has interviewed a cross section of design legends including Sir David Adjaye, Samuel Ross, Pamela Shamshiri and Piet Oudolf for the magazine.