Joan Didion’s Devotees Flocked to View Her Estate in Hudson, New York

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Although Stair Galleries was concurrently showing items for another upcoming auction—20th Century, Modern and Contemporary Fine Art, which notably includes a Lichtenstein, illustrated books by Henry Matisse, multiple Andy Warhol pieces, and a literal Picasso—every person this morning was here to explore Joan Didion’s estate sale.

“Head into the blue room on your right,” Jo Olsen, creative director for Stair, repeated as a steady stream of people filtered inside. The 1,500-square-foot blue-gray room was cleaved into three distinct areas. The right wing held a living-room experience, featuring the oversized Victorian-style woven rattan armchair in which Didion had been photographed more than once; a low, white wooden table; and an assortment of curiously low-to-the-ground mahogany Victorian side chairs. There were framed art pieces, ranging from abstract to scenic, and a stack of coffee-table books that the auction called “Group of Five Books About California” on top of a parquetry inlaid walnut-and-fruitwood square table—again mere inches off the floor. In the living area I overheard more than one person remark how petite, almost Lilliputian, some of the furniture appeared. Multiple women whispered about Joan’s diminutive frame, and one woman even called out a number, “She weighed 98 pounds.”

The center of the room held Didion’s working desk, an American oak library table, complete with her IBM typewriter. Her fruitwood-and-metal swivel desk chair stood catty-corner behind, draped with a brown Loro Piana cashmere shawl. Standing in front of the desk, I found Jennifer Whittman, from Richmond, who was visiting the Hudson area for work. She felt grateful the timing worked out so she could pay homage to Didion’s personal items in real life. “Most of the items seem out of reach, but in a dream world, I’d want the double working desk,” Whittman said. “I’d love to own something.”

Courtesy of Stair Galleries. 

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