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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Artists, conservationists, business leaders and film and music stars from around the globe are marking the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day with a Green Auction to benefit the environment.
Organizers of the live auction on Thursday at Christie's and a companion silent online sale and related events, known as "A Bid to Save the Earth," expect to raise millions for four nonprofit environmental groups.
Artists Jenny Holzer, Damien Hirst, Alan Sonfist have donated major works for the sale. Jeff Koons will provide a studio visit to the highest bidder and Annie Leibovitz has donated signed copies of her book.
Bidders can also vie for tennis lessons with John McEnroe, an afternoon in Central Park with Canice Bergen, dinner and the theater with actress Sigourney Weaver or a day on the set with Australian star Hugh Jackman.
Jewelry, watches and luxury green travel packages will round out the items up for grabs at Thursday's auction.
"It's an unprecedented collaboration," said Susan Cohn Rockefeller, who is co-chair of the auction with husband David Rockefeller Jr., a philanthropist and environmental activist.
With participation from quarters as far-reaching as Deutsche Bank, NBC Universal and retailers Target and Barneys, officials said the event reflected increasing understanding that business concerns are closely tied to environmental issues, and that two need not be opposing forces.
"We're building bridges with different communities," said Peter Lehner, executive director of the international environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Counsel, which will benefit from the event.
He added that his group has been working closely with such nontraditional environmental allies as manufacturers and labor unions.
Doug Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy, which is another beneficiary, agreed.
"There's a real business model behind environmentalism," he said.
Proceeds from the auction, which will be carried on Christie's live at www.christies.com and continues with a silent auction ending on May 6 (www.abidtosavetheearth.org), will also benefit Oceana and Conservation International.
Christie's is waiving all fees and commissions for the sale, and in nod toward being green is not printing a catalog. Native Energy is providing carbon offsets -- reduced carbon emissions to counter those associated with the event.
Charity auctions have raked in big bucks in recent years, and while the financial crisis has struck hard, experts say the art market is on the verge of a strong recovery.
Organizers say that raising awareness and stimulating even small donations to environmental concerns is a chief goal.
Those on a more modest budget can scoop up one of Barney's specially designed $40 T-shirts, a tie-in with the event.
Text happy tweeters are encouraged to text GOGREEN to phone number 20222 for a $10 donation, while both Twitter (Bid2SaveEarth) and Facebook (ABidToSaveTheEarth)are linked to the auction.