| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Art collectors, environmentalists and celebrities packed the salesroom at Christie's on Thursday, the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, and spent nearly $2 million at the Green Auction benefiting the environment.
A round of golf with former President Bill Clinton, a painting by Damien Hirst, a Girard-Perregaux white gold and diamond watch and 18 other lots drew spirited bidding from anonymous buyers as well as stars such as Salma Hayek and Chevy Chase, who served as emcee.
Edward Dolman, chief executive of Christie's International, called the event "a wonderfully appropriate way to celebrate Earth Day," adding that the response had been breathtaking.
"I like to think that we are one of the first to get seriously into recycling," he quipped in reference to the 244-year-old auction house's history of selling and reselling art and other fine collectibles.
Proceeds from the live auction, a companion silent online sale and related fund-raising events collectively known as "A Bid to Save the Earth" will be divided among the non-profit environmental groups Natural Resources Defense Council, the Central Park Conservancy, Oceana and Conservation International.
Other stars on hand included Sam Waterston and Ted Danson, along with newsmen Brian Williams and Matt Lauer, and Candice Bergen, who donated a tour of Central Park with the actress followed by lunch.
A few items, including a trip to Botswana for six guided by National Geographic's editor in chief, went as high as $150,000, while spirited bidding drove the price for golfing with Clinton to $80,000. Bids totaled just over $1.5 million.
The silent auction (www.abidtosavetheearth.org) has drawn bids well in excess of $500,000 and could top $1 million or more by May 6, when it finishes.
Up for grabs are tennis lessons with John McEnroe, dinner and theater with actress Sigourney Weaver and a day on the set with Australian actor Hugh Jackman. A behind-the-scenes tour with Simon Doonen of Manhattan department store Barneys' legendary holiday window displays, along with lunch and a $5,000 gift card, has soared to $37,500.
With participation from quarters as far-reaching as Deutsche Bank, NBC Universal and retailers Target and Barneys, officials said the Green Auction reflected increasing understanding that business concerns are closely tied to environmental issues, and that the two need not be opposing forces.
Christie's waived all fees and commissions for the sale, and in a green nod did not print a catalog. And the event's "red carpet" was not red -- it was green.
"The Green Auction is a call to action," Dolman said before the auction.
Paddle raises, in which bidders made donations ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to one of the environmental groups, took in another half million dollars, while cellphone users were encouraged to text GOGREEN to phone number 20222 to make a $10 donation.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)