Russell Crowe’s Brazen ‘Art of Divorce’ Auction of Paintings and Memorabilia Rakes in $2.8 Million to Pay Off His Ex

The whimsical sale included Crowe's art collection, movie memorabilia, and even Leonardo DiCaprio's dinosaur skull.

Danielle Spencer and Russell Crowe at Cannes in 2010. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

On Saturday, a sale of cinematic proportions—full of suspense, shattered romance, lopsided humor, and even a cameo-by-provenance by Leonardo DiCaprio—took place at Sotheby’s in Sydney, Australia. And because the star seller behind the keenly anticipated auction was Russell Crowe, a reliable generator of spectacle both onscreen and in his private life, it proved an entertaining evening indeed.

Cheekily titled the “Art of Divorce,” the sale featured 226 lots from the Oscar-winning actor’s personal collection of Australian art, jewelry, and sports and film memorabilia. The sale took place on Crowe’s 54th birthday, which also marks the anniversary of his 2003 wedding to Danielle Spencer. The pair would have been married 15 years had they not separated in 2012, although the divorce settlement was only finalized last year, hence the timing of the sale.

After the five-hour sale, Crowe tweeted that it beat the pre-auction estimate of AU$2.6 million ($2 million) to total AU$3.7 million ($2.8 million), with negotiations ongoing to sell AU$350,000 ($268,128) more. 

At the lively auction, which was streamed live on Crowe’s Facebook page, 85 percent of the lots sold, selling over their value by about 45 percent. The sale was led by the actor’s collection of Australian artists, with the highest price coming in for Charles Blackman’s The Suitor (1960), which fetched AU$439,200 ($336,396) including buyer’s premium—more than twice its low estimate. Two other Blackman paintings also sold.

Charles Blackman The Suitor (1960). Photo: © CHARLES BLACKMAN/LICENCED BY VISCOPY, 2018.

Further, Brett Whiteley’s 1974 Moreton Bay Fig and Palms more than doubled its presale estimate, selling for AU$231,800 ($177,542). Norman Lindsay’s Abundance (circa 1924) quadrupled its low estimate, selling for AU$122,000 ($93,443) to a telephone bidder, and two works by Arthur Boyd, Riverbank With Reflections and Cockatoos (AU$170,800/$130,820) and Shoalhaven Riverbank (AU$46,360/$35,508) also performed well.

Four works by Penleigh Boyd, as well as others by Margaret Olley, Robert Dickerson, Sidney Nolan, George Browning, JA Turner, Hall And Company, Joseph Frost, Stanislav Plutenko, Gib Singleton, and Pro Hart also sold.

Aside from Crowe’s art collection, movie memorabilia made up an important part of the sale, with Crowe’s boots from Romper Stomper (1992) and a costume from The Silver Brumby (1993) being snapped up by the National Museum of Australia, which tweeted that the items would help them tell the story of the Australian film industry.

Gladiator (2000) memorabilia also attracted many bids, with the original chest armor worn by Crowe’s character smashing its pre-sale estimate of AU$20,000 ($15,318) to sell for AU$152,500 ($116,804).

A fully functioning Roman chariot from the film (because who wouldn’t want to ride to work in a chariot?) was also on the block, occasioning a bidding war that concluded at a whopping AU$79,300 ($60,738) amid a “stampede” of bids, according to Sotheby’s. Sydney radio stars Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald and Michael ‘Wippa’ Wipfli were among the contestants, glumly tweeting the moment they lost out on the lot:

A 128-year-old violin by Leandro Bisiach, which Crowe played in Master and Commander, sold for AU $164,700 ($126,148). One surprising out-performer among the movie memorabilia was an accessory to which the actor had once been intimately attached: the leather jockstrap he wore in Cinderella Man (2005), which outstripped its AU$500 ($383) estimate to sell for AU$8,540 ($6,541). 

Also on offer were 19 collectible guitars and an impressive collection of jewelry and watches by Asprey, Cartier, Chanel, and Chopard, including a yellow-gold Rolex that went for AU$48,800 ($37,377). Cricket memorabilia, motorbikes, and a 2011 Mercedes Benz also sold, as well as an actual dinosaur skull Crowe bought from Leonardo DiCaprio, which fetched AU$79,300 ($60,738).

Before the sale, Crowe said that he wanted to get rid of his stuff “in the spirit of moving forward into fresh air,” and although many are speculating all the proceeds of the sale will fund the titular divorce settlement, a private dinner and viewing of the lots on April 4 raised funds for ACMF, a charity Crowe is involved with that provides music education to indigenous children.

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