The lizards, as usual, were silent.
But thousands of noisy lizard lovers spent more than $250,000 Thursday night on the 78 large, lumbering lizards of Orlando’s LizArt project. The auction brought to a close the city’s massive public-arts project and more than doubled organizers’ hopes for the results.
The most expensive lizard, Bohemian Reflections, sold for $6,700. The average sales price was a little more than $3,000.
“It went beyond art,” said Brenda Robinson, the city’s chief lizard handler and executive director for arts and cultural affairs.
“It showed community spirit. But it also heightened awareness of the arts in the community and the talent that is available here. And it was fun!”
Proceeds form the sale of the lizards – including 69 decorated ones, several naked ones and a couple of freeform lizards donated by local artists – will go to the Downtown Arts District to support rents for theaters, galleries and artist’s studios. Buyers also could choose to designate 20 percent of their purchase price to other local charities.
The project was patterned after Chicago’s Cow Parade, in which 300 large fiberglass bovines were scattered around the city the summer of 1999. The cows’ auction raised more than $3 million for various charities.
Dozens of other cities followed suit, with pigs in Cincinnati, fish in New Orleans and giant Snoopies in St. Paul, Minn., home of Charles Schulz.
Central Florida artists decorated the naked animals as they chose and gave them fanciful names – Iguana Trump, Reptilio Domingo, Lizards in Black.
Robinson said she didn’t expect to make so much money after Sept. 11 and the economic downturn.
“So I was overwhelmed at the community support,” she said. The $262,680 in proceeds that organizers tabulated at the end of the evening did not include proceeds from a silent auction and food, drink and merchandise sales.
Auctioneers Karlin Daniel and his associates egged their buyers on through the evening.
“It’s just money,” Daniel said.
Robert Kling, whose firm F.F. South & Co. owns Church Street Station, bought two of the giant animals – Frank Lloyd Lizard and the Wonderful Lizard of Oz – at $5,500 apiece.
“We’ll put them somewhere at Church Street,” he said. “I wanted Frank Lloyd Lizard, but I got talked into taking two.”
Winning bidders. Gina Taylor (left) and Susan Porcaro Goings bid on the lizard formerly know as Tartan Reptilica, which they won for $2,500. Cathy Ruston, a printing executive, bought one for her back yard in Isleworth, and Imogene White, an obstetrician- gynecologist, bought one, an angel lizard, to put in her office. “I bid all night, and I finally got something,” she said.
Early in the evening, Helen Keeling Neal and her husband, David, stood in line to get their bidding paddle. The object, they said was to buy one of the reptiles to put in front of her business in Thornton Park.
“She’s got a list,” David Neal said. “We’d love any lizard.”
They wound up thrilled with a naked one – and conveniently enough, an artist, Bonnie Sprung, ready to get to work.