Eleanor Davis, “For Justice Ginsburg” (2015), giclée print of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that hung in her chambers (all images courtesy the Potomack Company unless otherwise noted)

Former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy was already established long before she passed away in September of 2020 at the age of 87. Over the course of nearly 30 years on the Supreme Court — following a successful law career that heralded numerous ground-breaking achievements — Ginsburg became a pop culture icon in her own right, with aspects of her life serialized in books, movies, and an abundance of Halloween costumes for budding young feminists.

Now art enthusiasts and fans of the iconic justice can invest in a unique souvenir, as bidding is open on several lots from Ginsburg’s personal art collection.

Online bidding is already underway on the first round of items, which includes 17 pieces from the collection on display at Ginsburg’s Watergate apartment in Washington, DC (other pieces in the auction are not from Ginsburg’s collection). Notable works include three Picasso ceramic, terracotta, and earthenware pieces and a print; a Josef Albers screenprint; and six bronze statuettes and reliefs by Glenna Goodacre, who designed the obverse of the gold Sacagawea dollar that was issued from 2000 to 2008 as well as the Vietnam Women’s Memorial on the National Mall in Washington.

Josef Albers, “Red Orange Wall” (1959/1970), screenprint
Glenna Goodacre, “Sacred Song” (2006), bronze

Bidding is also open on a second round of items, which include 145 artworks and memorabilia from the justice’s Supreme Court chambers as well as her home. Bidding will come to a close for the modern art auction on April 27, followed by the closing of the memorabilia auction on April 28. The dual auctions will benefit the Washington National Opera (WNO), a passion of Ginsburg, who frequently attended WNO performances at the Kennedy Center. 

Inspired by the justice’s “legacy on gender equality and diversity,” the Potomack Company, which is handling the auctions, says it will donate 10% of the seller’s commission to fellowships offered by the Women of Berkeley Law, a student group of the University of California, Berkeley.

Paul Spera, “Bubbie of Liberty” laminated drawing of RBG by her grandson

Many of the items in both collections have already met or exceeded their projected worth, no doubt bolstered by their association with the cult favorite RBG. For example, a laminated drawing of Ginsburg by her grandson, Paul Spera, was initially valued at $100 to $150 but was bid up to $5,500 at the time of this writing. Likewise, a 2015 illustrated portrait by Eleanor Davis that hung in Ginsberg’s chambers is currently bid well above its estimate.

Items from Ginsburg’s home and office chambers include more small artworks, a cross-section of Indigenous art, including carved animal fetishes and pottery; numerous cut glass and crystal vases and bowls, and an assortment of medals and honors bestowed upon Ginsburg throughout her prodigious law career. The catalogue includes all kinds of objects, from a mink coat with her monogram in the pocket to glass art and a Hummelesque tiger figurine issued in recognition of Ginsburg as a 1996 Rubin Visiting Professor at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center.

Interior shot of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Watergate apartment in Washington, DC featuring some of the items in her auction collection in situ (image courtesy Winston Real Estate)

The Ruth Bader Ginsburg collection will be on view at Potomack’s Old Town gallery in Alexandria, Virginia through April 27, offering not only a wide assortment of art objects and memorabilia collected over the course of a fascinating career, but a unique opportunity for those looking for one-of-a-kind artifacts from the life of a notable American woman.

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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...

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