Leonardo DiCaprio Auction Raises $38 Million for Charity

Leonardo DiCaprio at Golden Globes

Leonardo DiCaprio and his foundation held an auction to raise funds for global conservation projects at Christies last night and pulled in a staggering $38 million.

The proceeds of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation contemporary art auction will directly fund global conservation projects and be used create sanctuaries and protect natural habitats to save endangered species from extinction.

33 art works went under the hammer from artists that Leonardo had persuaded to create pieces just for this auction or collections of art that had been donated. When the dust had settled at the end of the night, the auction had made $31.7 million. An amount that beat all the pre-sales estimates and setting new price records for artists at auction.

Once the donations to the foundation from bidders were added up; including a stand alone $5 million donation for big cat conservation, the amount reached $38.8 million, less Christies reduced premium for running the event for the night of 5 percent.

33 different countries were represented by buyers who had registered for the event. Every lot was sold, most of them making far more than they were originally estimated to bring. These sales guaranteed that this would be the most valuable charity event to support the conservation effort.

DiCaprio, in his opening speech, related that worldwide less than two percent of philanthropic donations went to globally support conservation projects. He went on to say that this was despite the fact that over 140,000 animal and plant species are made extinct each hear, which beats the historical extinction rate by 10,000 per year.

He added that, “We are facing a tipping point of environmental crisis unprecedented in human history and our very survival is dependent on protecting nature. There are less than 3,200 tigers left in the wild, we’ve lost 90% of the world’s sharks, and it looks [like] we might lose the African elephant entirely in the next 10 years if we don’t take action.”

Considering the public’s increased interest in DiCaprio with the release of The Great Gatsby so close to the event and the presence of other celebrities who appeared on the night, it is not too surprising that the auction went well. Added into the “star factor” of the proceedings was Tobey Maguire who attended and bid a staggering amount of $525,000 for Rob Pruitt and Sergey Jensen works; and the presence of Salma Hayek, Mark Ruffalo and a score of other celebrities; odds were that the “big spenders” would do just that.

Star attendance aside, DiCaprio invested a lot of time and work himself. Hi is well known to be a committed environmentalist who, besides getting artists and collectors to donate works, also spent the last few days prior to the auction in Christie’s offices calling clients and asking them to bid.

It obviously paid off, with bidders in mad frenzy that necessitated that the general auction house rules be ignored for expediency sake. DiCaprio himself bought a specially commissioned work by Takashi Murakmi that featured animal motifs that he (DiCaprio) had suggested. He splashed out $700,000 for that alone.

With new record prices being set for all the artists who had contributed, each time that a lot was sold, it did so to the sound of applause from the other bidders.

However the monetary value of the art was driven by the importance of the cause and to a large extent by the celebrity status of the organiser and his colleagues and friends who participated, on the night.

Just before the sale began, DiCaprio addressed those present at the auction. “We have to start looking at the planet in the same way we look at fine art as something of value that we can protect and preserve for our children and our grandchildren. I want you to bid as if the fate of the planet depends on us.”

Apparently, everyone did.

By Michael Smith

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