The hottest trend in the art market right now isn’t even art—and it’s not new. Instead, it’s millions of years old, and it’s seeing a surge in popularity thanks in part to Leonardo DiCaprio and other celebrity collectors. According to a new report by Artnet, dinosaur fossils are the latest must-have for the über-rich. Over the past year, auction houses and galleries alike have begun trading in dinosaur fossils, from Aguttes to Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
Since DiCaprio and Nicolas Cage entered into a bidding war over a $276,000 dinosaur skull (which Cage ended up securing but later had to return to Mongolia, where it had been smuggled out of), the desire for dinosaur bones has just grown. Last year, not only did a dinosaur fossil end up selling for €2 million at an auction held inside the Eiffel Tower by Aguttes, dino bones were also the focal point of an exhibit at Art Miami called “DeXtinction,” which DiCaprio apparently stopped by to check out a $2.5 million Allosaurus, as Page Six noted. Presumably, he wanted to add to his collection, which includes a Mosasaur skull he bought in Russell Crowe’s “art of divorce” auction for $79,300.
“Owning a dinosaur has become a trend. Their skeletons are effectively regarded as design objects,” art dealer Luca Cabler of the gallery Theatrum Mundi told Artnet. (His gallery actually employs a paleontologist.) “But few people know that a dinosaur is a work of art. Few people know the work of paleontologists, artisans, designers, and academics necessary to rebuild and restore it.”
So what is the draw of owning something you’d see in a natural history museum? Apparently, dino bones are not only less expensive than the most coveted artists’ work, they’re also more exclusive since there’s a limited supply.
If one were looking to get into dinosaur fossil collecting, it’d be better to start with vegetarians since carnivore dinosaurs have a reportedly higher price tag. A medium-size Diplodocus goes for just €500,000 to €1 million, while the Allosaurus, which DiCaprio owns a skull of, is between €1 million and €1.5 million. Likewise, the herbivore Triceratops can be purchased for €150,000 to €350,000 for a skull. The most expensive dinosaurs, on the other hand, are the most famous ones: the T. Rex, which has been priced between €3 and €10 million, and the Velociraptor.
If those two names bring to mind Jurassic Park, that’s not exactly coincidental. According to James Hyslop, who oversees natural history at Christie’s, “[Jurassic Park] reignited the public’s fascination with dinosaurs. There was then a moment where people realized, ‘Hey, you can actually buy these things for less than a Picasso.’” What a bargain.