A French Curator Is Auctioning His Collection of Works by Les Lalanne to Fund the Renovation of the Musee d’Orsay’s New Building

The proceeds are part of Daniel Marchesseau's $5.3 million gift to the museum.

François-Xavier Lalanne, Mouton de Pierre (1979). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

A trove of sculptures and objects by the design duo Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne are hitting the auction block at Sotheby’s to help fund the Musée d’Orsay’s forthcoming research and archive center.

The 18 works come from the collection of Daniel Marchesseau, a veteran of the French art scene who served as a curator at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and later as the director of the Musée de la Vie Romantique. Marchesseau had a close relationship with the Lalannes for 50 years, and many of the works for sale are prototypes or unique works. 

The sale is part of a €5 million ($5.3 million) gift to renovate the Hôtel de Mailly-Nesle, a 17th-century manse that the Musee d’Orsay acquired in 2016, where the research and archive center—which will be named for Marchesseau—will reside following its overhaul in 2025. “The idea that the work by this artist couple would contribute to renovate an architectural complex of such heritage for the purposes of art history seemed essential to me” Marchesseau said. 

François-Xavier Lalanne, Tortue topiaire which Mr Marchesseau commissioned in 1987. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

François-Xavier Lalanne, Tortue topiaire which Mr Marchesseau commissioned in 1987. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Daniel Marchesseau met Les Lalanne while visiting their studio to write about in the journal Les Nouvelles Littéraires on the occasion of their first show at Galerie Alexandre Iolas in 1972. For the next nearly fifty years the trio met frequently, and Marchesseau promoted the whimsical and surreal sculptures in exhibition catalogues, books, and through his patronage. In some cases, Marchesseau requested specific details artworks, as in an 11-light torch lamp by Claude Lalanne that features large hosta leaves per his request.

“The works left my apartment three to four days ago and I’m sobbing every morning” Marchesseau told the Guardian, “but one has to know what one wants and my goal is far more important than keeping these works for myself, so it’s over.”

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