Saturday, October 01, 2011

Wow!Gorilla Auction - Sept 29th

On one of the hottest days and evenings of the year in Bristol, 550 people packed the Victoria Rooms in Clifton. Volunteers lined the walls, armed with mobile phones to take outside bids, and not a seat was left unfilled in the “stalls’ and “balcony” with eager bidders, anxious artists and curious onlookers. On a stage two gorillas, each on a revolving plinth, spun slowly in a slow continuous turn; bathed in spotlights and admiration. Music filled the room and mixed with the charged atmosphere of the evening.

After the speeches, the bidding began …. it was estimated that each gorilla would fetch probably £1000 or even £1,500 so we were ready for a great evening with a good amount of money expected to be raised for the gorilla conservation projects supported Bristol Zoo Gardens and The Wallace and Gromit Appeal raising funds for a new echocardiagraph ( think that’s how it is spelt) machine for the dedicated Children’s Hospital here in Bristol.

The auctioneer was brilliant and took the auction down a great fun path encouraging and cajoling the bidders to keep on bidding against each other. He was superb! Each gorilla was brought out, covered in a black cloth, and placed on one of the revolving plinths either side of the auctioneer. They were each unveiled in turn to a fanfare of music, sometimes chosen to fit the character of the gorilla, as the spotlights were trained on them. A couple, Dee Dee was included in this, had a choir come out and sing a song after they were unveiled and prior to the bidding on them.. The Elvis gorilla had a singer come out and do a great medley of Elvis songs. Dee Dee was the first to have this done prior to her bidding and she had the song Autumn Leaves sung for her… I have to admit that made me quite emotional!

Dee Dee at Bristol Zoo Gardens prior to the auction

The prices for the gorillas started off at over twice the highest estimate and got higher as the bidders warmed up and the gorillas got fewer! The bidding never went below £3,000! Dee Dee was 13th (not unlucky this time) to be auctioned and raised a great sum of £7,500!!!! I was so chuffed and proud that she got so much. Even more so, when I found out (after the auction) that her new owner was Sharron Davies the retired Olympic swimmer. How cool is that! Many of the gorillas reached bids of £5,000-£6,000 but 24 of them reached £7,000 and over. Every time the bidding reached £10,000 a great cheer went up around the room- five gorillas reached that mark (Elvis, 24 Carat Camo, Jama, Blackbeard Silverback and Spider Monkey); Two gorillas went on above that to even more cheers - £12,000 (Still Life: Alfred) and the top bid of £23,000 went to Gorisambard. Outstanding! By the time the bidding was over ALL the gorillas had new homes and the total raised was a whooping £427,300.

Best of all is that ALL of that money goes to gorilla conservation and the Children’s Hospital*… the zoo had arranged for there to be no VAT and the Auction House waived their fee… much needed money to benefit two great causes. *The exception to that is the money raised for the gorilla Custard goes to the BBC Children in Need Appeal.

What better way to end to this marvellous project called WOW!Gorillas, created celebrate the zoo’s 175th Anniversary. After the auction, I spoke to a few of the zoo staff who were working that night helping with the running of the event and they all looked ecstatic and shell-shocked. It’s safe to say the amount raised and the way these gorillas have been taken into people’s hearts has completely surpassed any expectation of what would happen. To have been a small part of that makes me feel incredibly privileged and humbled. I’m so glad I got to paint one of these gorillas and that they all sold so very well indeed. Bravo to all the bidders, I’m astounded by such generosity in these hard times.

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