At Cannes, amfAR gala returns in movie star style

After a year off due to the pandemic, the lavish amfAR gala to raise money for AIDS and HIV research retuned in movie-star style Friday

France Cannes 2021 amfAR Arrivals
France Cannes 2021 amfAR Arrivals

Sharon Stone hosted and Alicia Keys gave a dazzling performance as the lavish amfAR gala that raises money for AIDS research returned to Cannes Friday evening.

One of the most anticipated nights of the festival, the 27th edition was a smaller more intimate affair than previous years, with the exclusive guestlist pared from 900 to 400 people with COVID-19 protocols in place.

The night began with a cocktail hour complete with ballerinas, flapper girls with Afghan hounds, vodka and caviar shots and plenty of champagne.

This was followed by a seated dinner without the usual after-party that keeps guests dancing into the early hours. That didn't stop attendees from enjoying the hottest ticket in town.

Dining under the stars at Villa Eilenroc in Antibes , this year’s theme was “I am a Movie Star” and guests were entertained with a fashion show curated by Carine Roitfeld. Keys was the music headliner, performing a spellbinding set which included her legendary hit “New York” as well as the much-loved “Fallin'.” Keys sat at the piano and announced to the crowd that this was her first in person performance since the pandemic to a rapturous applause from the diners.

“It is beautiful, it is overwhelming, it is exciting, it is great to stay on mission here,” Stone said before the festivities began, noting that some of the science used to fight HIV and AIDS was deployed against COVID-19. "I think we’re staying on mission and we’re back at it which is really nice.”

This year’s festival jury president Spike Lee made a special appearance along with a star-studded guest list from screen, catwalk and music including Dylan Penn, Natasha Poly, Orlando Bloom, Regina King, Swizz Beatz, Rachel Brosnahan and Soo Joo Park.

The live auction which took place during the dinner saw a combination of luxury holidays, jewels, art-work and one-off experiences go under the hammer.

Stone led the proceedings arriving on stage with a man on each arm. “Isn’t it so nice to be here!” she shouted before raising a toast of thanks to all the guests.

This year’s highlights included a chance to create your own personal vintage champagne which went for 70,000 ($82,638) euros, while a Chopard 18-karat white gold diamond, tanzanite and amethyst necklace raised 170,000 euros ($200,692).

Amongst the artwork an Andy Warhol Mickey Mouse piece raised 375,000 euros ($442,702), a Michael Kagan astronaut sculpture went for 400,000 euros ($472,215) and contemporary British artist Sacha Jafri created a live painting during the auction which raised 1 million euros ($1.18 million).

The 32 top designer outfits featured in the evening’s fashion show were also auctioned off gaining a hammer price of 225,000 euros ($265,621).

The non-profit amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, raises money to support AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocacy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $550 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide.

Before the sale, head auctioneer Simon de Pury stressed the auction's importance to sustaining amfAR's mission. "amFAR really does depend on those galas, does depend on the generosity of so many of those artists who give works and so many patrons who come to these galas, so I do hope we can raise a lot of money tonight for amFAR.”

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