Renowned journalist and oral historian Jean Stein was devoted to fine art and the avant-garde. Throughout her life, Stein became an intrinsic part of the art world, often hosting salon-style gatherings for her close group of artist and celebrity friends, including Warren Beatty, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and many more. Her eclectic art collection, which includes works gifted to her from friends like Dorothea Tanning and Brigitte Lacombe, is a testament to her place among the artists.
Other pieces in Stein’s personal collection were purchased based on the recommendation of her friend, famed curator and museum director Walter Hopps. Through Hopps, Stein was introduced to Andy Warhol and later Warhol Superstar Edie Sedgwick, who became the subject of Stein’s first best-selling book “Edie: American Girl” (1982). Stein penned three books during her lifetime and served as the editor of literary magazine Grand Street, for which Hopps served as deputy editor.
Filmmaker and artist John Waters counts himself among Stein’s oldest friends. When speaking about her collection he said, “she enjoyed art that causes trouble and first makes you mad,” and noted that “she would have it just sitting right out, elegantly, like it was supposed to be there, not because you were supposed to be impressed.”
Stein’s legacy is a product of her work and prized art collection, and bears the mark of the strong relationships she built with innovators in almost every field. Below are pieces of art, selected from Sotheby’s upcoming online auction, The World of Jean Stein: Online, which reflect the importance of Jean Stein’s friendship to her many admirers.
“Alberto Giacometti, Paris” by Inge Morath
This photograph of Alberto Giacometti in his studio may have been significant to Stein for several reasons. In her early 20s, Stein acquired “Portrait of a Woman” by Giacometti for $750. He later sketched Stein as a gift for her second husband, Nobel Prize recipient Torsten Wiesel, during their honeymoon in Paris.
“A Rat” by Edie Sedgwick
This realistic drawing was presented to Jean Stein and her first husband by Edie Sedgwick. Twenty years later, Stein co-authored a book with George Plimpton about Sedgwick. An instant best-seller, “Edie: American Girl” details the short, tragic life of Sedgwick throughout the drug-addled 50s and 60s. Sedgwick dedicated the drawing “Jean + Bill, Love Edie.”
“Ed Ruscha” by Dennis Hopper
Stein had a long-standing friendship with the late actor Dennis Hopper, whom she interviewed for her magazine, Grand Street, and regularly invited to her soirees. In addition to his career acting in films like Easy Rider and Blue Velvet, Hopper was a photographer who specialized in portraits and images of Los Angeles. He took this photograph of his friend and Pop artist Ed Ruscha in 1964.
“France, Château de la Fourchette, Mick and Jerry” by Brigitte Lacombe
In this layered image, French photographer Brigitte Lacombe captures an elegantly dressed Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall together for Vogue in 1996. Lacombe, who also captured Stein on film, inscribed the image “Pour Jean Love and Amitié, Brigitte.”
“Untitled (Recto); A Palm Tree (Verso)” by Dorothea Tanning
This small work was executed by Tanning on a color postcard and sent to Stein in 1998. It was accompanied by an invite to a Summer Solstice party given by the artist. Tanning, a pioneering Surrealist painter, printmaker, sculptor, and poet, inscribed the postcard with the words “Love Dorothea.”