Feverish Bidders Snapped Up All 274 Works in a Triumphant Sotheby’s Sale From the Collection of Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne

The sale quadrupled its high presale estimate and drew more that 4,000 bidders.

François-Xavier Lalanne, Lapin à vent ( 2004). Image courtesy of Sotheby's.
François-Xavier Lalanne, Lapin à vent ( 2004). Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Global mania for the whimsical designs of the late artists and designers Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne was on full display at Sotheby’s Paris, as a two-day auction of works from their private collection, formerly housed in their home and studio in Fontainebleau, soared to record highs.

Every one of the 274 lots was snapped up by eager buyers, who hailed from 43 countries, according to Sotheby’s, and the sale pulled in $101.5 million (€91.3 million), quadrupling presale expectations of bringing in a total of $17.7 million to $24.4 million (€16 million to €20 million). There were more than 4,000 registered bidders on the sale, according to the auction house.

Sotheby’s listed all buyers as anonymous, but Jose Mugrabi and Antoine Arnault (son of top collector and LVMH owner Bernard Arnault) were among those buying, according to a report in The Art Newspaper. London dealer Ben Brown, who had championed the Lalanne duo since 2004, reportedly bid on more than 50 lots, and dealer Sébastien Carvalho of Galerie Mitterrand in Paris was the buyer of Claude Lalanne’s Small Crocodile Bench (2009) at $683,000 (€612,500).

“There was a thrilling energy in Paris,” said Nick Olney, managing director at the Kasmin gallery, which has overseen numerous shows by the couple in New York. “Over the years the audience and collector base for the singular visions of Les Lalanne has exploded from a passionate and sophisticated core following, to one that is truly global in scope.”

New York dealer Alex Benrimon, whose gallery has handled numerous Lalanne works, was hardly surprised by the auction results. “While there has always been strong interest in their work and a great respect for their practice, it has grown greater as the lines between art and design have continued to blur,” he told artnet News, adding that there was “a huge influx of inquiries into the artists and their work in recent weeks and we had a feeling the auction would smoke.”

François-Xavier Lalanne, Unique Rhinocrétaire (1991). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

François-Xavier Lalanne, Unique Rhinocrétaire (1991). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

The top three lots were all by François-Xavier, including the highest-priced work, a unique copper-and-metal Rhinoceros desk (1991) that soared to $6 million (€5.4 million) compared with its high estimate of $1.1 million. Next up was François-Xavier’s Lapin à vent (2004), which sold for $2.8 million (€2.5 million). The rabbit-like creature had a presale estimate of $445,000 to $667,000.

A bar cabinet, Grand Mouflon de Pauline (2008), sold for just under that at $2.7 million (€2.4 million), though its estimate was slightly higher, at $667,000 to $890,000.

François-Xavier Lalanne, Les Trois Grands Moutons de Peter (2007). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

François-Xavier Lalanne, Les Trois Grands Moutons de Peter (2007). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Meanwhile, the priciest work by Claude Lalanne was her famous Choupatte (Très grand) (2012), a standing cabbage with bird-liked feet. The work set a new record for the artist at $2.4 million (€2.2 million) on a modest estimate of $167,000 to $222,000.

And of course, the famous Lalanne sheep figured in the top lots, with Les Trois Grands Moutons de Peter (2007) selling for $2.3 million (€2 million).

Florent Jeanniard, head of 20th-century design at Sotheby’s, said the pair’s oeuvre “has a universal appeal which was reflected by the enormous excitement the sale generated around globe.” The auction, he added, “is a huge tribute to the whimsical genius of the couple.”


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