Bharti Kher’s ‘The Skin Speaks A Language Not Its Own’, Bindis on fibreglass 55 7/8 x 180 x 76¾ in. (142 x 456.2 x 195 cm.)
Leonard DiCaprio’s ‘11th Hour’ auction at Christie’s in New York yesterday netted $33,327,000 (Over $33.3 million). The auction, jointly hosted by Christie’s and the Leonard DiCaprio Foundation, featured two artists of Indian origin. Both Bharti Kher and Anish Kapoor sold their works.
Kher’s fiberglass elephant with bindis all over its body was sold for an impressive $1,785,000, while Kapoor’s fiberglass bowl was sold for $735,000.
Anish Kapoor’s Untitled fibreglass and paint 35¼ x 35¼ x 19½ in. (90 x 90 x 50 cm.)
The DiCaprio’s foundation has been focused on wildlife and environment and many of these pieces under the auctioneer’s hammer captured that theme. After going through the photographs of each of the 33 pieces, it is my considered opinion that Kher’s elephant was easily the best work, although it did not fetch the best price. The highest price went to Mark Grotjahn’s oil on cardboard mounted on canvas.(See below). It sold for $6,510,000.
For whatever my opinion is worth, I was left underwhelmed by most of the works. Speaking of being underwhelmed, DiCaprio’s portrait by Elizabeth Peyton fetched $1,050,000. The portrait is evocative but I am not entirely sure if it is worth a million bucks. The bid may have had something to with the fact that DiCaprio, riding on raves about his performance as Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s 3D epic ‘The Great Gatsby’, was sitting in the front row. Stars have a way of warping space. But then a work of art is worth as much as anyone is willing to pay. There is no point rationally analyzing its merits.
What trumps any discussion on the artistic quality of the works is the cause for which they were sold. DiCaprio has been quoted by Christie’s press release as saying, “My Foundation has worked on environmental issues since 1998, and despite the great efforts by organizations all over the world, our planet is in trouble. The modern world is placing enormous pressure on the very natural systems that sustain us; we are destroying our forests, polluting the air and water, overfishing our oceans and facing overwhelming extinction rates of plants and animals. Consequently less than 2% of our Oceans and 12% of our forests and wildlands are protected. Nature is abundant and it is resilient, but we have to take action now to protect our planet before it’s too late. Given that less than 2% of philanthropic giving goes to environmental conservation projects, we are grateful that Christie’s and the participating artists are providing this incredible opportunity.”
If a million dollars for a DiCaprio portrait could help regenerate a stretch of forest, that is money very well spent indeed.