Leonardo DiCaprio attends the "The Great Gatsby" world premiere in New York. (Photo: Reuters)
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Christie's auction house raised nearly $32 million for environmental causes on Monday at a charity art auction.
DiCaprio, the star of the new film "The Great Gatsby," organized the so-called The 11th Hour Auction along with his foundation and Christie's to protect the last wild places on Earth and their endangered species.
The 33 works of art, many of which were created for and donated to the auction by the artists, sold for $31.74 million in spirited bidding in a packed auction house. Art collectors from around the globe also placed bids by telephone.
"All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you," DiCaprio told the audience at the end of the auction, which raised more than double the pre-sale estimate.
In addition to the sale, which set records for 13 artists including Carol Bove, Joe Bradley, Mark Grotjahn, Raymond Pettibon and Mark Ryden among others, a $5 million matching donation for three of the lots and $1.15 million in other donations raised the overall total to nearly $38 million.
At the opening of the auction, DiCaprio, who has supported environmental issues through his foundation since 1988 and also produced and narrated the 2007 documentary "The 11th Hour" about the state of the environment, urged the audience to dig deep into their pockets.
"Bid as if the fate of the planet depended on us," he said.
And they did. All of the 33 works were sold and many fetched prices that were three or four times their pre-sale estimates.
The top lot of the sale was an oil on cardboard mounted on canvas by Mark Grotjahn called "Untitled (Standard Lotus No. II, Bird of Paradise, Tiger Mouth Face 44.01)," which sold for $6.2 million as two determined bidders pushed up the price.
Zeng Fanzhi's "The Tiger," an oil on canvas, fetched nearly double its high estimate with a price of $4.8 million, and Bharti Kher's sculpture "The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own," went for $1.7 million.
Each of the three works had a pre-sale estimate of $1.5 million to $2.5 million.
DiCaprio donated "Ocean V" by Andreas Gursky, which sold for $600,000, and he bought an acrylic on canvas by Takashi Murakami for $700,000.
A portrait of DiCaprio painted by Elizabeth Peyton sold for $1 million.
Loic Gouzer, international specialist at Christie's and the head of the sale, said many of the works were of a quality never seen at auction before.
A panel of environmental experts and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation will decide which conservation projects will benefit from the proceeds of the sale.
Gouzer said he and DiCaprio had approached the artists and explained what they had hoped to accomplish with the auction, which they have been planning for a year.
"We explained that we wanted great works and they were very reactive because of the cause. The artists are very sensitive to the fact that we are destroying our planet," Gouzer said in an interview ahead of the sale.