The Collection of Joel Siegel
The first thing I saw after I came to was this huge Lichtenstein pop-art poster. If it had been a Raphael Madonna I might have thought I'd died and gone to heaven. But Lichtenstein? I died and went to the Museum of Modern Art?
-Joel Siegel, upon awakening in the recovery room at New York Hospital, Lessons for Dylan

Everyone thinks they know Joel Siegel. Joel Siegel the movie critic with razor sharp wit. Joel Siegel from “Good Morning America,” who earned five New York Emmy Awards for his work. Joel Siegel was a larger-than-life personality who connected with thousands of homes, families, and individuals, not to mention those he interacted with in his personal sphere. But how better to get to know a person than to examine the objects they collected and curated over a lifetime. Objects that spoke to their past, present, their heart, and their ideals.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Joel Siegel was raised on Hollywood and the ideals that it espoused to little boys. He dreamed of the wild west, cowboys, and the lure of the open range. Siegel’s day dreaming, however, clearly did not detract from his studies as he went on to graduate cum laude from UCLA in 1965 with a degree in American History.
Joel, as a toddler, dressed as a cowboy
In the early 1960s, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to speak at UCLA, Siegel raised money to support his efforts. Siegel later traveled to Macon, Georgia to help with voter registration. According to Siegel’s wife, Ena Swansea, “during the registration drive, Joel would have to be careful while driving as blacks and whites were not allowed to drive together.” Joel participated in protest marches. He was committed to social justice. “I was a civil rights worker in 1965 – I’m really proud of that. I knew Martin Luther King – even more, he knew me – incredible!" (Joel Siegel, Lessons for Dylan).

Siegel went on to assist with the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy and was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night the Senator was assassinated. “I heard the shots. I was standing outside one of the entrances to the kitchen, and I heard this popping sound. Three, four pops...I thought the sound we heard was flashbulbs popping…” (Joel Siegel, Lessons for Dylan).

Alex Katz (American, b. 1927), Luna Park, Lot 2481

In a world that moved so fast, Siegel was drawn to objects that evoked a semblance of a simpler time. His collecting began in earnest when he became successful at ABC. His wife, Ena Swansea recalls him expressing such gratitude that he was able to afford the “tchotchkes” that resonated with his heart and, over time, developed into his collection. Again, he was drawn to the west and the ideals of the open range, however, his life experiences had sharpened and widened his scope. His commitment to equality and study of history led him to incorporate Native American art and culture in his collecting.

Joel’s collection reflects his inner self as a dreamer, idealist, lover of history, and lover of life. He collected fanciful maps of imaginary places and worlds. He collected political objects such as a complete set of 64 Rosan JFK cards, 20th century pinback buttons, even board games, that spoke to his deep commitment to civil rights work. He found value in material culture such as toys, lunchboxes, Ovaltine shakers and mugs – the treasures of childhood and simpler times. These were mementos of life – the lives they touched and the stories they told, as well as those they inspired.

Explore the Collection of the late Joel Siegel

The Winter Estate Auction
January 27th, 9:00am EST