December 11, 2023

An estate sale for the late Joan Didion has seen buyers flock to snap up the writer’s belongings, with everything from napkins to chunky Celine sunglasses to a broken desk clock selling for thousands above the estimated prices.

On Wednesday, the live auction at Stair Galleries in New York, titled An American Icon: Property From the Collection of Joan Didion, saw the late American writer’s furniture, art and books snapped up for hair-raising prices.

A pair of faux tortoiseshell sunglasses made by Celine sold for $27,000; Didion was known for her fondness for both big frames and the French fashion house and famously modelled a pair for Celine at the age of 80.

A handsome walnut, oak and bird’s eye maple desk once purchased by Didion’s parents, Frank and Eduene, sold for $60,000; the estimate was $8,000-12,000.

Her Cartier desk clock – “that does not appear to be in working order”, Bidsquare noted – was estimated to sell for between $100-200. It sold for $35,000.

Two collections of unused, blank notebooks, including some Moleskines, sold for $11,000 each, while a collection of her embroidered table napkins, “a few with scattered stains consistent with use”, sold for $14,000.

A collection of shells and pebbles that Didion displayed in her living room sold for $7,500, while her collection of aprons, including one with the slogan “Maybe Broccoli Doesn’t Like You Either”, sold in a lot with a rolling pin for $6,000.

The high bids surprised some observing the auction online. But it all goes to a good cause: proceeds will be donated to patient care and research of Parkinson’s and other movement disorders at Columbia University, and to the Sacramento Historical Society, for their Sacramento City College scholarship for women in literature.

looking at the didion auction and honestly whenever I die just auction all the things in my house off for no more than four dollars per item, no matter what it is, and let the 15 people who would be interested battle it out for all the weird old t shirts, bobbleheads and whatnot

— Hanif Abdurraqib (@NifMuhammad) November 16, 2022

$24,000 for a stack of Joan Didion’s books! Not even books she wrote. Just books she READ. I feel ALIVE.

— mattie kahn (@mattiekahn) November 16, 2022

The auction house had settled on the show’s lots after reviewing all of the items in the Upper East Side apartment Didion once shared with her husband John Gregory Dunne.

“We chose the items from her apartment that we felt best represented the story that we and her family wanted to tell about her,” Lisa Thomas, director of Stair’s fine arts department and the show’s primary organiser told the Guardian last week, adding: “To see these sort of sweet personal objects tugs at the heartstrings.”

Earlier this week, an old pair of Birkenstocks once owned by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs fetched almost $220,000.


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