One of the most valuable items up for auction at the amFAR Cinema Against AIDS Cannes benefit, Leonardo DiCaprio, was being trailed by three bodyguards who never let him out of their sight. As he had done the year before, DiCaprio had put himself up for bid, sort of. He and Richard Branson had scheduled a trip out of the atmosphere and into outer space on Virgin Galactic for late 2015. And, said auctioneer and stalwart amFAR supporter Sharon Stone, “We have one more seat on the same flight! So who wants to leave planet Earth with Leonardo DiCaprio?” Vito Schnabel, doing some major PDA with Heidi Klum, jokingly gestured to Peter Brandt that he ought to put his hand up. Brandt shook his head. “I don’t want to go to space,” he said. “I want to go to the moon!”
Likewise, Chris Tucker was feeling shy. “I’m still trying to go some places here on Earth I haven’t been to. I’m to scared to do it. A couple people should do it first. I might do it after that.” Boom! A wealthy Russian picked up the seat for 700,000 euros.
Earlier in the show, 50 models, including Joan Smalls, Karlie Kloss, and Karolina Kurkova, paraded through the vast tent at the famed Hotel-du-Cap-Eden-Roc in a Carine Roitfeld–curated collection of designer dresses, all red, all inspired by Marilyn Monroe. Another Russian billionaire named Igor Sosin bought the entire collection — including the silver Pucci auctioneer Sharon Stone was wearing and had thrown in to up the bids — for 3.5 million euros. He’d bought them for his wife, who’d been complaining she didn’t have anything to wear.
The night’s biggest item, though, was a gilded mammoth skeleton from Damien Hirst. It was 10,000 years old — the oldest existing skeleton of a mammoth — and had been bought by an anonymous bidder for a world-record price at a Christie’s auction in London in 2007. The anonymous bidder then donated it to Hirst and they came up with this concept. “This is a work that, had it been sold ten days ago in New York at Christie’s or Sotheby’s or Philips, would have beaten every imaginable record,” said auctioneer Simon de Pury. It was Hirst’s most major work to hit the open market in seven years, he explained. Three days ago, no one knew of the piece’s existence. And it hadn’t been assembled until that very morning on the lawn of the du Cap. Within minutes, it had sold for 11 million euros, which was a steal, said de Pury, since it was worth 40 to 50 million.
There was also a moment in which a woman raised her hand to bid $420,000 on something, perhaps just trying to up the amount, and then realized she might actually win, and had to take her bid back. This happens a lot. DiCaprio was an early bidder on a Bulgari necklace but got quickly outbid. And Chris Tucker said he often employs that strategy. “I always bid first and then hopefully somebody does it after me. They say, ’$100,000,’ and I raise my hand and hopefully someone will come after me and say ’$110,000.’ And I’ll be like, ‘Thank you, Lord!’” he said. He’s almost accidentally bought things a few times: “Then I tell them I was playing — it was an accident. I wasn’t raising my hand; I was wiping my eyebrows.”
All in all, the gala raised $35 million (not euros) to fight AIDS, the real reason everyone was there. And if they got a fashion show, and performances from Lana del Rey and Andrea Bocelli and Robin Thicke, and a trip to space with Leo DiCaprio, and a gilded mammoth skeleton, and some poor Russian billionaire’s wife finally got some nice dresses, well then that’s just gravy.