Artworks and memorabilia from Donna Summer’s personal belongings head to Christie’s New York this June. Bidding on the rich collection—which spans Polaroids, trophies, and even paintings by the musician herself—opens June 15 and closes June 29.
“Donna Summer epitomized the disco era—but she also transcended the genre,” Senior Specialist Peter Klarnet told Artnet News. “This project has been in the works for some time,” he added. “What better season than Summer?”
The auction coincides with the release of on HBO, a documentary directed by Oscar-winner Roger Ross Williams and Summer’s daughter, Brooklyn Sudano. June also marks LGBTQ Pride Month—which took root, some say, with disco music during the Stonewall uprising of 1969. While some of Summer’s LGBTQ fans boycotted her for her remarks at a 1983 concert, the prevailing popularity of classics like “Love to Love You Baby,” which Beyoncé sampled on her 2003 solo debut “Dangerously In Love,” showcase the vigor of Summer’s legacy.
Born December 31, 1948, Summer shined in her native Boston’s choir scene as a kid. She joined a German production of at 18, then studied, worked, and wed in Europe. She met legendary Italian producer Giorgio Moroder in Munich. After producing “Love to Love You Baby,” Moroder helped Summer set the stage for EDM with the chart topper “I Feel Love,” for which he aimed to create a futuristic mood, employing a Moog synthesizer.
Among the forthcoming sale’s greatest surprises, Klarnet cited a holiday card Summer wrote to Gene Simmons while they were both signed to Casablanca. Handwritten lyrics for “On the Radio” offers thrills too. “The lyrics on the page are mostly in the hand of someone else with edits here and there in Donna Summer’s hand,” said Klarnet. “The reason? She had a terrible time composing the lyrics until one day in the studio the words simply came to her and she sang them right there in the studio—with a studio assistant copying them down after she laid down the track.”
That relic of music history could fetch $3,000–$5,000, on par with estimates for Summer’s 1978 RIAA Gold Record award for “Last Dance.” Pricier lots span a silk evening dress from 1985 (estimated $4,000–$6,000) and a selection of Summer’s vibrant paintings—such as and the abstract landscape —a cherished pastime that proves her power to transcend not just the messy lines of musical genres, but the many mediums of creativity itself.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the Save the Music Foundation, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation—all charities that Summer supported until her death in 2012, according to Christie’s.