A black and white photo portrait of writer Joan Didion using her turtle-neck sweater to cover her face

Joan Didion: What She Means

OCT 11, 2022–FEB 19, 2023
Curated by Hilton Als

Joan Didion: What She Means is an exhibition as portrait, a narration of the life of one artist by another. Organized by critically acclaimed writer and New Yorker contributor Hilton Als, the exhibition features approximately 50 artists ranging from Betye Saar to Vija Celmins, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Maren Hassinger, Silke Otto-Knapp, John Koch, Ed Ruscha, Pat Steir, and many others. The more than 200 works include painting, ephemera, photography, sculpture, video, and footage from a number of the films for which Didion authored screenplays.

Opening less than a year after her death at age 87, and planned since 2019, Joan Didion: What She Means follows a meandering chronology that grapples with the simultaneously personal and distant evolution of Didion’s voice as a writer and pioneer of the “New Journalism.” The exhibition closely follows her life according to the places she called home and is laid out in chronological chapters—Holy Water: Sacramento, Berkeley (1934–1956); Goodbye to All That: New York (1956–1963); The White Album: California, Hawai‘i (1964–1988); and the final chapter, Sentimental Journeys: New York, Miami, San Salvador (1988–2021).

Joan Didion: What She Means is organized by Hilton Als in collaboration with Connie Butler, chief curator, and Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi, curatorial assistant.


Hammer Museum, Los Angeles: October 11, 2022–February 19, 2023
Perez Art Museum, Miami: July 13, 2023–January 7, 2024

Download the free Bloomberg Connects app to hear Hilton Als read excerpts from Didion's writing and discuss works in the exhibition. This mobile experience is powered by Bloomberg Philanthropies.


Kenneth Anger (American, b. 1927)
Diane Arbus (American, 1923 – 1971)
Richard Avedon (American, 1923 – 2004)
Milton Avery (American, 1885-1965)
Don Bachardy (American, b. 1934)
Robert Bechtle (American, 1932 – 2020)
Barbara Bloom (American, b. 1951)
Vija Celmins (American, b. Latvia, 1938)
Henry Clarke (American, 1917 – 1996)
Eleanor Colburn (American, 1866-1939)
Richard Diebenkorn (American, 1922-1993)
William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Kim Fisher (American, b. 1973)
John Ford (American, 1894-1973)
Felix Gonzalez-Torres (American, 1967-1996)
Maren Hassinger (American, b. 1947)
Suzanne Jackson (American, b. 1944)
Kristi Cavett Jones (American)
Silke Otto-Knapp (German, b. 1970)
John Koch (American, 1909-1978)
Brigitte Lacombe (French, b. 1950)
Liz Larner (American, b. 1960)
Alma Ruth Lavenson (American, 1897-1989)
Hughie Lee-Smith (American, 1915-1999)
Glenn Ligon (American, b. 1960)
Helen Lundeberg (American, 1908-1999)
Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Ronald Morán (Salvadorian, b. 1974)
Dominique Nabokov (French)
Maria Nordman (b. 1943)

Chiura Obata (Japanese-American, 1885-1975)
Bill Owens (American, b. 1938)
Frederick Law Olmsted (American, 1922-1903) and Calvert Vaux (English-American, 1824 - 1895)
Irving Penn (American, 1917 – 2009)
Frank Perry (American, 1930-1995)
Jack Pierson (American, b. 1960)
Noah Purifoy (American, 1917-2004)
Martin Puryear (American, b. 1941)
Umar Rashid (American, b. 1976)
Elaine Reichek (American, b. 1943)
Ed Ruscha (American, b. 1937)
Betye Saar (American, b. 1926)
Alan Saret (American, b. 1944)
Ben Sakoguchi (Japanese-American, b. 1938)
Jeffrey Henson Scales (American, b. 1954)
Penny Slinger (British American, b. 1947)
Roger Steffens (American, b. 1942)
Pat Steir (American, b. 1940)
Jürgen Teller (German, b. 1964)
Wayne Thiebaud (American, 1920 - 2021)
Anne Truitt (American, 1921-2004)
Elmer Wachtel (American, 1864-1929)
Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000)
Henry Wessel (American, 1942-2018)
Edward Henry Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Amanda Williams (American, b. 1974)
Christopher Williams (American, b. 1965)
Gary Winogrand (American, 1928-1984)
Michele Zalopany (American, b. 1955)

Joan Didion: What She Means is made possible by lead funding from Cindy Miscikowski. Major support is provided by Allison Gorsuch Corrigan and Wendy Stark and the Walske Charitable Foundation. Generous funding is also provided by Agnes Gund, Bill Hair, Amara and Alexander Hastings, Maurice Marciano Family Foundation, and Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy, with additional support from Dana Delany, LLWW Foundation, Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, and Lee Ramer.

Media sponsorship is provided by Cultured magazine and LAist.

Join Us.

Hammer membership gives you special access to public programs, opening parties, and puts you in the mix of L.A.’s vibrant art scene.

Free for everyone, more for you.

Learn more about Hammer membership