The items being auctioned off from Joan Rivers’ private collection at Christie’s are exactly what you would imagine anything belonging to Rivers to be: gaudy, entertaining, hilarious, ambitious.
The comedian, known for her pointedly sharp style, died in 2014 at the age of 81. Now, more than 200 items from her Upper East Side apartment, including red carpet outfits, jewelry, and furniture — lots and lots of furniture — will go for sale on June 22.
The lot begins with three of Rivers’ award show ensembles, including a silk Oscar de la Renta dress in bubblegum with a black lace overlay that she once chopped up to look like a ballerina tutu and called it her worst fashion mistake. It is estimated that it will sell for $1,200 – 1,800.
The next two rooms are staged to loosely look like the inside of Rivers’ triplex, which she purchased in 1988 and was designed by Horace Trumbauer in neo-French Classic style. It had a ballroom, mezzanine, library and several sitting rooms with impressionist furniture that matched the architecture. Much of her furniture is gold-gilded and extravagant. The satin, poufy couches and ottomans are adorned with ropes and tassels. There’s a case filled with painted porcelain birds on perches. Highlighted pieces in this room include three French embroidered children’s chairs for $1,000 – 1,500, that she allowed her dogs to sit on. Rivers’ was a canine lover. One of the charities benefiting from the auction is Guide Dogs for the Blind. The other is God’s Love We Deliver.
Another noted piece is Rivers’ personal Inlaid-Yewwood desk and chair, placed in the auction house beneath a long leopard-print rug. She wrote scripts and penned jokes at the desk. It is also expected to sell for $1,000 – 1,500.
The jewelry room displays more of Rivers’ over-the-top taste, particularly with a Iradj Moini ruby, emerald and amethyst bead necklace for an estimated $10,000 - $15,000. Rivers’ preferred to parade around in extravagant accessories, though she was only five foot two. Another Rivers’-esque item in this room, though not a highlighted piece, but one set somewhat randomly among her silverware, is a silver and black crystal clutch – she owned a number of sparkly evening bags – embellished with the Empire State building, the Chrysler building, and the twin towers; across the top reads: New York.
Though the Christie’s specialists insist that despite Rivers’ humor and splashy possessions, she was a serious collector with an eye for impressively rare antiques. That may be, but take the auction too seriously, and it loses its charm — much the same as is the case with Rivers. As she famously said, her home was where “Marie Antoinette would have lived if she had the money.”
Britta Lokting is the Forward’s culture fellow.