Intent on making sure her birthday weekend will be one to remember for fans across the world, Janet Jackson has finally agreed to auction more than 1,000 pieces from a career spanning four decades.
The star, who has sold over 185 million records and remains the only female artist in history to score seven top-five singles from one album, has partnered with celebrity auctioneer Julien’s to host the three-day sale in Beverly Hills from 14 May.
A rare exhibition of Jackson’s costumes and memorabilia will be displayed for fans at the Hard Rock Cafe in London on 19 April for five days, before the collection is transferred to New York and then on to Los Angeles ahead of the auction.
“Janet has never done anything like this before. We’ve approached her so many times, and it has always been very hard to find anything at auction from her because she kept and archived everything,” said Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions. The 10th and youngest Jackson sibling is believed to have spent most of the year living quietly at her London home with her four-year-old son, directing an international clearout of her closets.
Nolan told the Observer that “putting together the auction was an incredibly cathartic project for her”.
“She’s had this stuff in storage for years, and in her homes in Los Angeles, New York and London. She’s been incredibly hands-on with sending personal notes on each piece, remembering what she wore and when, which we’ve included in the catalogue. She now feels it’s time to let go.”
Items up for grabs include Jackson’s wedding dress for her secret marriage to dancer René Elizondo Jr in 1991, plus furniture and jewellery. It will also include costumes from her tours and music videos for the songs Control, Nasty and What Have You Done For Me Lately. Jackson’s futuristic ensembles from Scream, her duet with brother Michael, then the world’s most expensive music video at $7m, are all included.
The lots have been conservatively priced – Jackson’s Rhythm Nation military jacket, arguably part of her most memorable outfit, has an estimate of $6,000, while her famous, single silver-tone hoop earring suspending a key, is marked at $2,000.
Jackson has produced 12 albums, many of which went multi-platinum, and still holds the record for the most successful debut concert by a recording artist with her 1990 Rhythm Nation tour.
Her career – in the mainstream, at least – was derailed in the noughties by a 2004 performance at the Superbowl dubbed Nipplegate, when Justin Timberlake ripped open part of Jackson’s costume and exposed her breast to the world.
The moment scandalised the US; Jackson’s songs and videos were pulled from radio stations and television channels as the backlash focused almost entirely on her. It took Timberlake 17 years to apologise to Jackson, which he did on Instagram in February. The Superbowl costume is not included in the auction.
Still, Jackson has continued to connect with a growing army of younger fans on TikTok and Instagram; tributes to her most famous choreographed dances routinely go viral. and she has been described by the Guardian “as influencing an entire new generation” of pop and R&B acts.
Following her set at Glastonbury 2019, Jackson was due to perform in stadiums worldwide again last summer before her Black Diamond tour was rescheduled.
The Jackson auction of what Julien’s call “iconic treasures from a legendary career” is accompanied by three catalogues, signed in limited editions by the singer, to be sold at $800 each.
The house estimates a multi-million-dollar sale, with Jackson donating a portion of the proceeds to the charity Compassion International.