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Cinema Against AIDS 21

Stars and supermodels galore at amfAR's annual gala in Cannes

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Sharon Stone, center, in Emilio Pucci   
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Think the annual amfAR fundraiser during the Cannes Film Festival is just another swish, celebrity-packed gala? Think again. Last night's biggest star wasn't dressed in a couture gown or a bespoke tuxedo. Rather, it was Damien Hirst's gilded mammoth that had pride of place at the foot of the Hôtel du Cap's manicured grounds—and sold for $15.2 million during the event's live auction.

The artist donated his newest and most significant work in years to amfAR, and its title, Gone but Not Forgotten, dovetailed poignantly with the organization's fight against AIDS. At the beginning of the evening, event chair Harvey Weinstein mentioned that the gala had raised $120 million over twenty years. By the time he returned to the stage nearly four hours later, Cinema Against AIDS 21 had pulled in a record high of $35 million.

And it was the collection of forty-two red outfits from forty-two designers—all selected by Carine Roitfeld and featured once again as an upbeat runway show—that commanded the second-highest bid of $4.8 million. The collection, which represented the designer gamut from A (an Alexander Terekhov sequined gown worn by Karlie Kloss) to V (a tonal pleated kimono dress from Vionnet Couture) and included an unexpected showing from Céline (one of Spring's brushstroke-patterned looks), was swept up by a couple who remained vague about their plans for it.

As it turned out, there were celebrities aplenty, although there may have been even more models. Representing the former contingent: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jessica Chastain, Justin Bieber, John Travolta, and Adrien Brody. Among the latter: Carla Bruni Sarkozy, Milla Jovovich (a longtime chair), Heidi Klum, Eva Herzigova, and Jourdan Dunn.

Guests mingled between tables until the main course was served toward 11 p.m. Returning emcee Sharon Stone spun the late dinner hour as proof of amfAR's success: "This event was once so small that everyone cared. Now it's so big that we're in a room where it's just a party, and that gives me great joy." Arguably the best sighting of the evening came when model Lara Stone (in vintage, studded Gianni Versace) introduced Jane Fonda (in new Atelier Versace) to freshly crowned Eurovision winner and striking drag persona Conchita Wurst. "Now more people follow me, but we are still fighting for tolerance and acceptance," Wurst said of her newfound fame.

When the time came—slightly before midnight—for Hirst's lustrous fossil to find a home, auctioneer Simon de Pury started bidding at 1 million euros. "To my mind, this is the most important single artwork ever donated by any artist to a charitable auction," he explained, hinting that the artist might or might not be present (he was—we spotted Hirst talking to Weinstein before the dinner). "Through a kind of alchemy, whatever you pay for this work, you're going to do an infinity of good for amfAR, for the fight against AIDS. But at the same time, you are going to do the most extraordinary investment. Years from now…you will laugh all the way to the bank for having bought this stunning masterpiece."

A masterpiece, let's not forget, that just so happened to echo last year's fashion show with its gilded designer gowns. Upon suggesting to Roitfeld that she introduced gold to amfAR before Hirst, she shot back with a smile, "He copied me."

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