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Leonardo DiCaprio, and His Record-Breaking Environmental Charity Sale

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Leonardo DiCaprio, and His Record-Breaking Environmental Charity Sale
Leonardo DiCaprio presiding over his "11th Hour" auction

Who Is He?

The 38-year-old heartthrob Academy Award-nominated actor is best known for his performances in The Titanic, Inception, and Gangs of New York. He can currently be seen on silver screens across the country playing the title role of Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann's epically spectacular (if critically maligned) The Great Gatsby, a film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, which also stars Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire. 

What's He Doing in the Art World?

DiCaprio—or Leo to friends and cult followers—recently organized the "11th Hour" auction along with Christie's international specialist Loic Gouzer to benefit the actor's environmentally minded foundation. The auction featured 33 works by contemporary artists whom DiCaprio personally asked to donate to the sale, and, really, who could say no to that face? To prove his serious intentions, the actor even contributed an Andreas Gursky from his own collection.

Why Should We Care?

For one thing, the auction was framed by dire pleas regarding the state of the natural world—"bid as if the fate of the planet depended on us," DiCaprio petitioned the crowd prior to the event. For another, the auction house looked like the Kodak Theater during the Academy Awards, with Bradley Cooper, Mark Ruffalo, Salma Hayek, and the aforementioned Maguire all lending their star wattage. But bottom line? The auction raised $38.8 million dollars—factoring in matching donations and the buyer's premiums—making it the highest-grossing environmental charity event ever.

The night saw over a dozen artists set new world auction records, including Dan Colen, Adam McEwen, Elizabeth Peyton, and Rob Pruitt, though these totals should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt, as bidders, fueled no doubt by a few modicums of good will, were encouraged to go over estimate for a charitable cause. The top lot, Mark Grotjahn's Untitled (Standard Lotus No. II, Bird of Paradise, Tiger Mouth Face 44.01) sold for $6.2 million (also a new record at auction for the artist) to art dealer Larry Gagosian (who represents Grotjahn and some might say has a direct interest in raising the artist's market prices) following a bidding war between him and Russian billionaire Vladimir Doronin.

How Deep Are DiCaprio's Ties to Art?

The actor's art-world connections seem to be strengthening by the day; he's been seen attending auctions and walkthrough previews over the past six months, including the Brant Foundation's Andy Warhol exhibition preview last weekend, occasionally with his friend and art dealer Helly Nahmad, who you may have heard is in trouble with the Feds at the moment. 

The actor's personal connections to art extend beyond just the contemporary and modern, however, as his namesake is none other than Leonardo da Vinci. His expecting mother and father (and underground comic artist) were inspired with the name while visiting the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and little unborn Leo began kicking in the presence of a work by the great Renaissance artist.

What is His Favorite Animal?

It would, without a doubt, be the tiger—an animal that, at the auction's preview last week, Loic Gouzer called the actor's "mascot." His foundation's efforts in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund helped double the number of wild endangered tigers in a region in Nepal. Also, the sale's cover lot was a Robert Longo tiger, not coincidentally titled Leo (it sold for $1.5 million). 

Who Does He Collect?

Most recently, DiCaprio purchased an unfinished Takashi Murakami painting, Mononoke, for $700,000 at his "11th Hour" auction, though he is a known collector and admirer of Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as Ed Ruscha, Todd Schorr, and Mark Ryden. 

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