After a Covid-induced break last year, the annual amFAR Gala Cannes supporting AIDS research returned to Cap d’Antibes on Friday night, and with it, host Sharon Stone who had been absent from the Cannes Film Festival-adjacent event for several years. The venue was new this year, with the Villa Eilenroc standing in for the Hotel du Cap. The majestic house and gardens were once upon a time frequented by F Scott Fitzgerald, and fittingly, there was a Gatsby-esque theme to the very long evening from cocktails through dinner, an Alicia Keys performance and an auction whose momentum never really materialized.
In Stone’s spirited opening remarks, she said, “I’m so moved to be here with you… We’ve been on this journey for so long and we didn’t know what was going to happen and now we have ads for AIDS medication on TV… It’s a miracle what we’ve done and I’m so damn proud.”
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Attendance was limited due to the pandemic, and by most accounts there were far fewer celebrities present. Among those who turned up were Regina King, Rachel Brosnahan, Mj Rodriguez, Maria Bakalova, Nina Dobrev, Nicholas Braun and Dylan Penn (the latter starring in her father Sean’s Cannes competition entry Flag Day). Spike Lee, president of the Cannes jury this year, put in a perfunctory appearance.
Over the past quarter-century more than $200M has been raised from this event, and in 2019 amFAR reported $15M was made at that year’s edition. Last night’s takings are not thought to be quite so lofty, at least not calculating the lots physically auctioned off during the seven-hour shindig.
One of the lots that notably disappointed was a group of 32 original couture designs from such houses as Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Céline, Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Valentino and Versace. They sold for just 225K euros ($266K) after some last minute chiding by Stone who called the audience “a bunch of cheap motherf***ers” when the bidding initially stalled. In 2019, a package of 35 different styles, similarly curated by Carine Roitfeld, went for north of $1M. This year’s runway fashion collection, titled “I Am A Movie Star” was punctuated by some fantastic outfits and game models who navigated a set of steep steps and slippery terrain that caused a few to stumble, only adding to the somewhat discombobulated proceedings.
Deep-pocketed attendees appeared to be lacking, although two paintings by British artist Sacha Jafri, whose 17,000 square-foot “Journey Of Humanity” sold for $62M at auction in Dubai last March, went for 1M euros ($1.18M) and $750K euros ($885K), respectively. Also bid upon was a chance to “live like the Great Gatsby” with a lunch or dinner for 24 at the Villa Eilenroc and a first edition copy of Fitzgerald’s classic novel, signed by Robert Redford. When the bids didn’t take off in a swift manner, Stone added she would host the event while Leonardo DiCaprio would also sign the book and a pair of cufflinks worn by both actors who portrayed Jay Gatsby in big screen versions would be included.
A performance by Alicia Keys, who said this was her first official post-Covid concert, added some oomph to the evening when she came on about half-way through the auction at 1AM local time. Seated behind a giant piano, she sang such notable hits as “Fallin’” and “Empire State Of Mind (Part II)”.
The audience was on its feet for the performance, before a portion of the crowd dispersed. When the auction resumed, it moved at more of a clip, although at a certain point, as the bids stalled, Stone exclaimed, “Don’t tell me I stayed up this late and nobody’s going to bid.”
When a pair of Gatsby-themed Chopard watches failed to elicit much response, Stone appeared agitated, thanked the audience and said, “Adios” before leaving the stage.