Christie’s Paris will offer the first major sculpture created by François-Xavier Lalanne—and widely considered to be his most important—in a single-lot auction on October 20, alongside Paris+ par Art Basel. The horned beast is estimated to fetch between €4 million and €6 million ($4.4–$6.5 million).
The armored body of (1964)—which can be opened to reveal a hidden desk, bar, safe, and lamps—stands as a seminal work in Lalanne’s oeuvre, setting the tone for the utility and signature whimsy that would define his practice for the next 44 years. These hallmarks appear again and again, most notably in his (1965), (1970), and (1971). The artist’s auction record of $9.6 million, for a patinated bronze leopard sculpture ( I, 2005, edition 5/8), was set at Sotheby’s Paris in November 2021.
Lalanne moved away from painting in the 1960s to dedicate himself fully to sculpture, a path he followed for nearly 50 years with his partner, Claude—collectively they were known as Les Lalanne. was unveiled at Galerie J in Paris in “Zoophites,” the first joint exhibition by the couple. The revolutionary work has been hidden from public view since then, with the exception of one outing, in 2010, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, as part of a retrospective dedicated to the trailblazing artists.
According to Christie’s, sculptures like owe their existence to Galerie J’s Jeanine Restany, who forged a close friendship with Les Lalanne and retained possession of since “Zoophites” (it remained in the family after her death in 2004). She played a significant role in the rise of the Nouveau Réalisme movement, the European counterpart to Pop Art, and she was behind notable projects such as the “Feu à volonté” exhibition by Niki de Saint Phalle, “Le Rideau de Fer” by Christo, and the first solo exhibition of Cy Twombly in Paris.