Leonardo DiCaprio Helps LACMA Raise $3 Million at First Art + Film Gala

John Shearer/Getty Images for LACMA

Los Angeles County Museum of Art and its event co-chair post big returns launching an inaugural fundraiser in support of movies at the museum.

Is Leonardo DiCaprio the art world's biggest new fan? The answer — as evidenced by Los Angeles County Museum of Art's wildly successful first annual Art + Film Gala — is an unqualified yes.

On Saturday night, Nov. 5, the actor co-chaired the inaugural black-tie benefit, which raised $3 million for LACMA. The party, held in a temporary structure on the museum campus, honored artist John Baldessari and DiCaprio's J. Edgar director Clint Eastwood.

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DiCaprio flew back from Australia (where he's started filming The Great Gatsby) for the night, which drew a crowd that was one of the most A-list events ever thrown by an arts institution. Kate Hudson, Jane Fonda, Evan Rachel Wood and Olivia Wilde were among the actresses who turned out wearing gowns by event sponsor Gucci. Directors on hand included Jason Reitman, Eli Roth, Ron Howard, Julian Schnabel and Gus Van Sant. The studios were represented by Disney's Rich Ross, Sean Bailey and Bob Iger (who stopped in for cocktails — he and wife Willow Bay, a LACMA board member, had to make it to a bar mitzvah); Warners' Barry Meyer and Jeff Robinov (the studio bought two tables, which started at $50,000-a-pop, to support their J. Edgar director); Sony's Michael Lynton, a LACMA trustee; and The Weinstein Co.'s Harvey Weinstein.

The event raised money for LACMA's big push to make film a bigger part of its focus. This fall, the museum launched the Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, curated by film critic Elvis Mitchell. It also recently announced that it is in discussions with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to open an Oscars film museum in the historic May Company building on the LACMA grounds. On Saturday night, a LACMA board member told THR that there is even talk of launching a festival centered around film at the museum. We're not talking a fest like Sundance or AFI. Think more an Aspen Ideas Festival or New York Festival type event focused on movies.

“This was always a city about film; now its a city that's also about art. So the fact that we are celebrating both in the same place and night is pretty special," said AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson of the evening. 

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The night began with cocktails on the museum's plaza followed by a sit-down dinner for around 500. Baldessari, one of the art world’s most important conceptual painters, was introduced by remarks from LACMA director Michael Govan and a short film by Paranormal Activity 3 and Catfish directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost and narrated by Tom Waits. The clip drew laughs when the 6'7" artist, asked about being on the same bill with Eastwood, responded: "How tall is he?"

Afterward, DiCaprio — a budding art collector, who, a source tells THR, is advised in his purchases by New York City’s Tony Shafrazi Gallery — came to the stage to honor Eastwood. "As John, the artist, would say, 'I'm tall enough,' " said Eastwood, who applauded the museum's efforts. "L.A. deserves to have the best film museum in the world. Certainly Paris has Cinematheque, New York has MOMA but there's more history of film in this town and it really deserves a sensational museum."

To cap the night, Stevie Wonder (CAA’s Bryan Lourd, a new LACMA board member, helped get him for the night) sang for the crowd. DiCaprio’s mother, Irmelin DiCaprio, the head of his foundation, got a pic of herself snapped with the singer.

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 Also on hand for the festivities were such LACMA board members as Elaine Wynn (her ex-husband, casino mogul husband Steve Wynn, also attended), Brian Grazer, Steve Tisch, Carole Bayer Sager, philanthropist Wallis Annenberg, auctioneer Viveca Paulin-Ferrell (with husband Will Ferrell) and DiCaprio's gala co-chair, fashion designer Eva Chow.

Near midnight — an hour after Wonder had wrapped his set and most of the guests had left — DiCaprio was still there hanging out with his fellow organizers Govan and Chow. According to Govan, the actor, who the LACMA director calls a friend, is a frequent visitor to the museum. We've no doubt that Govan would love to nab DiCaprio as his next big get for the LACMA board. But perhaps he doesn't need to given the actor's already enormous show of support.

"As a native of Los Angeles, I want to personally thank everyone associated with LACMA," said DiCaprio in his remarks. "Your commitment to serve the public through conservation, exhibitions and your interpretation of significant works of art continues to have a valuable impact on our community here in Los Angeles.”