LAURENCE LOVES LIZ: It was a painting he’d dreamed about owning for years — and now it’s finally his. Last week at a Sotheby’s auction in New York, diamond mogul Laurence Graff paid more than $12.6 million for “Liz,” a silk screen of screen diva Elizabeth Taylor. The London-based Graff, a major collector of contemporary art, believes “Liz,” which was made from a publicity photo in 1963, the year Taylor starred in “Cleopatra,” is a major work. “He feels this particular painting is the finest portrait [Andy] Warhol ever did,” a spokeswoman for Graff said. “It is a painting Mr. Graff dreamed of owning for many years, and it is a valuable addition to his important collection of Warhol paintings.” The painting was the top lot in the sale of contemporary and postwar art, and exceeded its presale estimate of $9 million to $12 million.
GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE: When the bidding got fierce, Donald Trump took matters into his own hands. Trump served as auctioneer the evening of May 16 at “A Celebration of Learning: An Event to Benefit The McCarton Foundation,” a financial aid program for children enrolled at The McCarton School, which is dedicated to the education of children with autistic spectrum disorders. Two bidders were battling it out to play golf with “The Donald” on his private course, and just as the bidding topped $25,000, Trump said, “OK, stop. You get it,” gesturing to one bidder. “And you get it,” he said, pointing to the other. Just like that, Trump brought in $50,000 for the school. Jon Stewart hosted the event and treated partygoers to a fair share of Pope jokes. “Can you believe how the world was in a flip-flop for two days without a Pope?” he asked. Elyse Kroll, founder and president of ENK International, was the honorary chair of the auction, which brought in more than $1 million.
IN PRINT: Ross Bleckner, William Wegman and Sante D’Orazio will see firsthand what people think of their oversized Polaroid prints at Tuesday’s Free Arts Art Auction Benefit kickoff party and preview. Giorgio Armani is hosting the shindig at Barneys New York, where the artists’ work is on display in its Madison Avenue windows. Photos by others like Adam Fuss, Jack Pierson, Todd Eberle and Christopher Wool will also be showcased in the designer’s concept shop. All the artists’ work will be put on the auction block on June 8 at Phillips de Pury & Co. at 450 West 15th Street.
EARLY STARTERS: Monday was girls’ night out, as women from media, broadcasting, entertainment, fashion and politics gathered at Tina Brown’s home to fete Candace Bushnell’s latest book, “Lipstick Jungle.” Nibbling, or not, on appetizers were Lisa Airan, Ines Rivero, Sally Albemarle, Kate Betts, Jackie Astier, Cynthia Rowley, Miramax’s Meryl Poster and Desiree Gruber, who had just jetted back from Heidi Klum’s and Seal’s wedding in Careyes. The party was cohosted by La Mer and was the first of many to be held for the novel, which is still in galley form. New Disney chief executive officer Bob Iger will hold one in Los Angeles this summer, and when the book comes out in September, Bushnell will throw a party in New York during fashion week. “It’s when the year really starts for us,” she said. “For everyone else, it’s Labor Day, with back-to-school and stuff. But for us, the year starts with fashion week.”
RIPKA REELS THEM IN: Letting it slip that the goody bags are filled with expensive jewelry is one way to pack a party. Nearly 250 people came to celebrate the opening of Judith Ripka’s new glimmering boutique on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue Wednesday night. Who knows how many guests had seen the item that appeared in a gossip column last week announcing the goody bag graft, but there’s no doubt that fitting a crowd that size into the tiny 1,200-square-foot store was a squeeze. Nevertheless, socialites including Tinsley Mortimer, Sally Albermarle, Tiffany Dubin and Ivanka Trump all showed up to congratulate Ripka on the new store. And grab a pair of silver, gold and diamond earrings on the way out.