Auctions: The art of making a celebrity bidding war wildly lucrative

  • @alicevjones

Going, going, gone – to my billionaire best friend in the fifth row. It takes years to train as an auctioneer and a couple of decades on top to smooth one's salesroom patter and gavel-banging. If you're Leonardo DiCaprio, though, a few pals in high places are all you need. At an auction at Christie's New York on Monday, the actor raised $38.8m (£25.5m) for his Foundation, which works to protect endangered species and wildlife habitats.

Of the 33 artworks on sale, which included donations from Ed Ruscha, Richard Prince and Julian Schnabel, 13 broke world auction records and nine sold for more than $1m.

The auction brought in more cash than the last two Impressionist and Modern sales at Christie's put together. That's what happens when you give DiCaprio a gavel and Bradley Cooper, Larry Gagosian and François-Henri Pinault are waving the paddles. True to character, Tobey Maguire, Nick Carraway to DiCaprio's Gatsby, was dazzled into splashing $262,500 on a Sergej Jensen. The "painting without paint" is made of moneybags from the German Federal Bank sewn together and stretched into a canvas. How fitting.