Christie’s On The Enduring Appeal Of French Design Duo Les Lalanne

Emily Fitzgerald, Associate Specialist of Design at Christie’s, explains why all periods of Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne’s works merging art and design, which depict a fantastical universe of flora and fauna, are coveted in the marketplace.

When did you start seeing demand for Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne’s works and what is driving their growing market?

In the last three years, prices have reset in the market for Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne. There has always been consistent demand and interest in their work. This recent increase in values shows how these artists have emerged more broadly in the public consciousness. For example, François-Xavier Lalanne’s sheep have taken on iconic status and have been embraced by popular culture, as they can be seen in celebrity homes and various art and design magazines.

What in particular stands out about their works, approach, process and technique?

Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne take a novel approach to sculpture. There is an adherence to high-quality materials and a high level of craftsmanship. Their innovative approach is rooted in art history and nature producing a wide variety of fantastical forms that carry forward the principles of Surrealism. The fact that their works touch on so many aspects of form, material and art history makes them universally appealing to the market.

When did they first make their auction debut?

The sale of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in February 2009 at Christie’s was the first time the Lalannes were shown alongside canonized art and design of the 20th century in the same auction, but their work has always been collected alongside the greatest art and design by the most influential people. Dealers such as Alexander Iolas and collectors Gunter Sachs and the Agnelli family firmly established a connection between the Lalannes and fashionable, sophisticated collecting.

What is significant about Mouton de Pierre (10 Works) achieving $7.5 million at the Christie’s New York auction in December 2011, and what did it represent at the time for them?

This extraordinary result, achieving 10 times the low estimate, firmly established the top-tier value of François-Xavier Lalanne in the marketplace and it has stood as the world record for 10 years.

Are there other important secondary market sales that you’d like to point out?

A watershed moment for François-Xavier Lalanne at auction was the inclusion of the Mayersdorff Bar in the evening art sale at Christie’s on May 17, 2018. This auction illustrates a further resetting of thinking of how Lalanne works are presented, transcending categorical constraints on what constitutes high art, design or functional sculpture. The works stand firmly on their own alongside blue-chip painters and sculptures of the post-war era. Additionally, on June 10th of 2021, the auction “La Reverie: The Collection of Sydell Miller” produced the third-highest price for Francis-Xavier Lalanne at auction, achieving six times the low estimate at $6,630,000.

Why is it that works that they made individually have achieved higher prices at auction than works they made together?

Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne are individual artists who are often seen and presented as one entity “Les Lalanne”, but they have distinct styles and separate approaches to the medium. Their work co-exists and shares similar principles, but they each have their own distinct oeuvre and influence in the marketplace.

How have the deaths of Les Lalanne impacted the prices of their works on the secondary market?

As with the death of any artist, there is a final assessment of their complete work from start to finish. The deaths of the Lalannes have been a catalyst for a re-evaluation of their work in the marketplace. The “L’Univers Lalanne: Collection Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne” sale at Sotheby’s in 2019 was a galvanizing moment in the market because it presented the broadest range of their work, both large and small designs in various motifs and editions. It is clear that the diversity and variety of all periods of Les Lalanne’s output is sought in the marketplace.

Who are the collectors of their works?

The universal themes and variety of the work of the Lalannes has attracted an equally diverse and truly global cadre of collectors. These individuals range from international design and art collectors across Asia, Europe and the United States to decorators pursuing important works for their clients, alongside celebrities, innovators and global financiers. All of these categories of buyers respond with great enthusiasm to the pleasure that comes from owning this important art. Additionally, a new collector class has emerged that enjoys the status that accompanies the ownership and display of works by Les Lalanne. Equally as important, there is strong support for Les Lalanne at auction within the trade, with important galleries pursuing works for inventory.