Collectors Go Into a Frenzy for Les Lalanne at Sotheby’s Paris, Where a White-Glove Sale of the Couple’s Designs Notched $92 Million
The sale set a record for François-Xavier Lalanne, and for work he created in collaboration with his wife, Claude Lalanne.
The auction appetite for French designers François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne, collectively known as Les Lalanne, continues to surge. A white-glove sale at Sotheby’s Paris of their fanciful and often functional animal sculptures has brought in €79.3 million ($92.6 million) on a high estimate of just €14.5 million ($16.76 million)—more than five times above the expected total.
The auction, “Collection Dorothée Lalanne: Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne,” featured works formerly owned by one of the artists’ daughters. (François-Xavier died in 2008, and Claude in 2019.)
Not only was the auction a sell out, of the 81 lots, 96 percent sold above their high estimates, and 20 topped the €1 million ($1.15 million) mark.
Les Lalanne’s auction success follows a recent rise in institutional attention, with a show this summer at the Palace of Versailles in France. An exhibition at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, which closed this past weekend, was their first U.S. museum outing in more than 40 years.
“They are artists who have never received the attention that they deserve from the museum world and art historians,” Clark director Olivier Meslay told Artnet News. “Les Lalanne are extremely sophisticated in their work, but their art is incredibly approachable. It’s a work of art, but at the same time a practical object—this is quite unique in the art world.”
The auction set a record for François-Xavier not once but twice, with Le Minotaure (2004) making €7.97 million ($9.31 million) compared to a €600,000 ($692,600) estimate and—just a few lots later—Leopard I (2005) selling for €8.32 million ($9.7 million), well exceeding the €1.5 million ($1.73 million) estimate. His previous top price had stood since 2011, when a set of his well-known sheep sculptures went for $7.5 million at Christie’s in New York.
The sale also set new auction records for the artists as a duo—though they showed collectively, they rarely collaborated on individual works. Their joint work Pomme de Ben (2013), sold for €4.5 million ($5.29 million) on an estimate that topped out at just €500,000 ($577,167), while a monkey side table titled Singe aux Nénuphars (2010) brought in €1.94 million ($2.27 million), compared to the high estimate of €200,000 ($230,866). Those are now the top two prices ever achieved for the two artists together.
Claude set a new auction record in September, at Christie’s Paris when a bronze chandelier from 2003 fetched $4.4 million. Her top lot at this week’s sale, and her second biggest auction result of all time, was for Banc Crocodiles (2017), a crocodile bench that brought in €2.4 million ($2.8 million) on a high estimate of €600,000 ($692,600).
A recent spate of high-octane auction results for the duo include $12.5 million in sales from just 11 lots at an estate sale at Sotheby’s New York in April. A 274-lot Les Lalanne work sold out in 2019 at Sotheby’s Paris. And two years ago, a hippo bathtub by François-Xavier fetched $4.3 million at Christie’s New York, a sum that was nearly three times its high estimate. It had previously sold for just $168,000 in 2006.
Six of François-Xavier’s top ten sales are from this year, as are four of Claude’s, according to the Artnet Price Database. To date, she has had $44.9 million in sales this year, topped only by the $55.66 million total of 2019, with no other year exceeding $14.7 million. He has had his biggest year ever, with $101.27 million in total auction sales.
“There is a truly universal quality to the world that they have created, and this goes some way to explaining why their works appeal to such a broad sweeping pool of collectors,” Florent Jeanniard, co-worldwide head of Design and vice-président Sotheby’s France, told Artnet News in an email. “Their compendium of beasts speak to new and old followers alike, regardless of age and geography.”
See more works from the sale below.
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