Perhaps there is something to be said about whether or not there are pieces of the life we lead embedded in the objects we leave behind once we’ve continued on to death. In the case of Joan Didion and the madness that was the estate sale of her belongings this week, this may ring true. On November 16th, deep pockets flooded Stair Gallery in Hudson, New York looking to spend a pretty penny on the late writer’s belongings. The sale was predominantly built upon items from Didion’s Los Angeles and New York homes, with highlights including works by Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Brice Marden, Ed Ruscha, Vija Celmins, Annie Leibovitz and Patti Smith; selling for far beyond their estimated prices. Stair Gallery writes that you can feel the influence of her life with her husband, “frequenting the Hollywood scene in California and the literary world in New York….in the collection of art and objects that occupied her New York City apartment at the end of her life.”
The auction was a frenzy, with most of the Didion ephemera selling for almost 10 times their estimates. From a broken Cartier desk clock with a high estimate of $200 selling for $35,000, never before used Moleskin notebooks, some still encased in plastic, selling for $11,000. Her trademark Celine sunglasses, sold for $27,000, stained and well-used leather trash bins sold for $5,500 each, beach trash that once collected dust on her mantle sold for $7,000 and a crushed diet coke can for $7,500.
The hunger to carry on Didion’s memory through objects that were once in her possession growls amongst the Didion super fans that partook in the auction. Perhaps for some, it isn’t enough to have her scintillating mind living and breathing within her writing, but rather people desire the items that took up residence in her home as if this will bring them closer to her. Could it be the exclusivity of seeing and owning something of hers that no one else will, that makes it all that handsome of a purchase? I hope that whoever bid for the key that sat perched upon her desk without its lock, can unlock the answer as to why it seems we dearly search for life in the miscellaneous tangible items loved ones leave behind. If items truly embodied us, why wouldn’t we take them with us? The answer is simple, they don’t. And that is why we are so lucky to have pieces of Didion’s thoughts transformed into sentences transcribed from pen to paper, a true embodiment of her life.
Proceeds from the sale 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.
Guest Editor – Tatiana Cooper