When the gavel fell for the final time last night for Leonardo DiCaprio's "11th Hour Auction" at Christie's, more than $38 million had been raised for environmental projects around the world.  

“We have to start looking at the planet in the same way we look at fine art as something of value that we can protect and preserve for our children and our grandchildren,” said DiCaprio before the event. “I want you to bid as if the fate of the planet depends on us.” 

Taking those words to heart, billionaires, millionaires and celebrities all opened their wallets. Some of the highlights from the evening included spirited bidding on a portrait of DiCaprio that ended up selling for $1 million – a record auction sale for the artist Elizabeth Peyton. Another by artist Mark Grotjahn called "Untitled (Standard Lotus No. II, Bird of Paradise, Tiger Mouth Face 44.01)" stole the top bid of the evening at $6.2 million.

DiCaprio’s “Gatsby” co-star, Tobey Maguire, picked up a Sergej Jensen piece for $250,000, as well as Rob Pruitt's "6:20pm, late Summer" for $300,000. Leo himself threw down $700,000 for a Takashi Murakami painting titled "Mononoke" that won’t be ready until next fall. In total, 13 world auction records were attained and nine works of art were sold for more than $1 million — with many works surpassing their pre-auction estimates. 

“All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you,” DiCaprio told the audience at the end of the auction, which sold 33 works of art for $31.74 million. According to Christie's, an anonymous collector contributed $5 million to match the prices realized for the three tiger paintings (Zeng Fanzhi, Robert Longo and Takashi Murakami), to protect tigers.

Additional donations totaling more than $500,000 pushed the evening's final total to $38 million, a sum far above the estimated $18 million to $20 million predicted.

All of the proceeds will directly benefit the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which in turn funds initiatives around the world focused on conservation and endangered species. 

"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," DiCaprio said in a statement. "Consequently less than 2 percent of our oceans and 12 percent 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."

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

DiCaprio's charity auction raises $38.8M for conservation projects
Actor teamed with Christie's on the "11th Hour Auction" to benefit global conservation projects.