David Redden Article

David Redden ALS Fund

December 20, 2019

As we think of giving, we share some thoughts from renowned Sotheby’s Auctioneer David Redden, who describes living with ALS. Born in 1949 in Canton, China, where his father was the American Consul, David spent his peripatetic childhood in Haifa, London, Naples and Rome. Along the way he developed a passion for the objects and places that convey history and beauty. He spent his Sotheby’s career among some of the world’s most precious artifacts, in a job that was filled with adventure. Although ALS may have changed his life, we are grateful that David has channeled energy and vision now to support the mission of the Columbia University Eleanor and Lou Gehrig ALS Center.

Please learn more about David as he describes his life with ALS and find out how you can support the cutting-edge research that is being conducted by the physician-scientists at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Excerpt from David Redden

“ALS has never been cured nor wrestled to a draw.  I know.  I have the disease.  I will never conduct an auction to benefit ALS research and care.  My voice has almost gone.  I will never climb up to a podium.  I can no longer walk.  But this strange disease of the motor neurons wastes the body but spares the mind.  Because my physical world has shrunk, the world of my mind has grown in importance.  Meetings, dinners, gatherings, foreign travel are now impossible, so I write daily.  Decades of my private Diary of a Sotheby’s Auctioneer are now being edited, expanded and categorized, and that process will continue until physical corruption overwhelms the mind’s determination."

“It is curious that so many words—well beyond one million, could be written about only one facet of what I conceive to have been a charmed existence. But the auction house, that intersection of lust and folly, of frozen loveliness and perpetual transition, of the searingly beautiful and the historically searing (the vault next to my Sotheby’s office for months juxtaposed nine Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs with the papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.), was an irresistible vantage point from which to peer into the hidden corners of human existence.  Over 41 years I must have sold almost a million lots.  But it was never the lots that mattered so much as the stories they told—from space ships to dinosaurs, from Magna Carta to Rosebud, from Gilbert Stuart’s Lansdowne Portrait of George Washington to George Catlin’s portraits of American Indians, from the Collections of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to the Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and, along the way, the most expensive book, stamp, coin, medal and document in the world, all told stories as random as shells cast from the sea until fitted together thrillingly into a common language."

“In our strength we can be exceedingly weak and in our weakness astonishingly strong.  We have an infinite capacity to misunderstand ourselves and the courage and clarity to take a second look.  Living is so much more than science and medicine. But science and medicine have allocated the living a little more time.  To use life well and fruitfully is our duty.  To extend the fruitful life allows a few more days in which to redeem ourselves."

“ALS may be the fate of a handful—although that random handful could include anyone.  But the interrelated diseases of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and MS will ensnare so many more of us."

“My family has created a fund, the David Redden ALS Fund, at Columbia University, to support research into ALS, neuron diseases and the work of the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig ALS Center.  We ask you to consider a gift to this Fund which we will ensure is used wisely.   With love and appreciation to all whose lives have intersected with mine,”