Not ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-d! Lalanne sheep sculptures sell for $468K at Palm Beach Modern's Nov. 9 auction

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Not ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-d! Lalanne sheep sculptures sell for $468K at Palm Beach Modern's Nov. 9 auction
Two Francois-Xavier Lalanne (French 1927-2008) Mouton epoxy stone and patinated bronze sculptures, 1990 edition of 250, signed in the concrete and in the bronze. Sold separately to the same successful bidder in Switzerland for $247,000 and $221,000, respectively.

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.- A rainy day in the Palm Beaches meant no golf or tennis, but it didn’t stop 120+ art aficionados from gathering at Palm Beach Modern’s November 9 auction, which totaled $1.8 million and recorded an 85% sell-through rate. The auction attracted a record number of bidders, 4,500 from all sources combined and 4,000 via the Internet, alone.

“We pride ourselves on service and making our auctions an enjoyable experience, which includes providing a catered lunch and free valet parking for all who attend,” said Palm Beach Modern Auctions (PBMA) co-owner and auctioneer Rico Baca. “When the downpour began on the morning of the sale, we quickly arranged for a canopy to be installed at the front door so guests could arrive dry and comfortable. We think those small touches are important.”

Those entering the gallery would have been forgiven for thinking a luxurious petting zoo had been installed. However, the sheep safely grazing there were the sale’s top lots: two ultra-desirable epoxy stone and bronze “Mouton” sculptures by Francois-Xavier Lalanne (French 1927-2008). The double-signed sculptures from a 1990 edition of 250 were auctioned separately and consecutively, each with a $150,000-$200,000 estimate. Seven phone bidders were in active pursuit. One of them, bidding from Switzerland, prevailed on both sheep with winning bids of $247,000 and $221,000, respectively.

The first of three sessions comprising the daylong Modern Art & Design Auction was devoted to ceramics and opened with 19 lots of Ettore Sottsass (Italian, 1917-2007) artist’s proofs from a prestigious Miami, Florida collection. All were prototypes created for Bitossi’s The Hollywood Collection and had been owned by the consignor since the 1980s. The visually appealing ceramics were 100% sold, with the highest-priced piece being a 19½-inch “Totem,” which realized $3,250.

Other ceramic highlights included a 1984 Betty Woodman (American, 1930-2018) monumental earthenware sculpture titled Roman Reflections, $16,900; and a large Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) Hibou Noir Perche (Perched Black Owl) painted earthenware dish, $13,000. PBMA’s selection of Picasso pottery was 100% sold.

Two lots of abstract paintings proved especially popular with bidders, who pushed prices beyond the high estimates: a Paul Jenkins (American, 1923-2012) acrylic on canvas, $41,600 against an estimate of $18,000-$25,000; and a suite of four works in acrylic by Joseph Marioni (American, b. 1943-) titled Opus 17: Umber Meditation First Performance/10. The quartet more than doubled its high estimate at $28,600.

Aggressive bidding on French paintings led to very pleasing results, in particular for paintings by Charles Levier, Roger Muhl, Camille Hilaire, and Claude Venard (1913-1999). Venard’s expansive 51- by 15¼-inch canvas depicting urban architecture was bid to $35,100 – more than four times the high estimate – while his 28½- by 36-inch stylized floral still life rose to $16,900 against an $8,000-$12,000 estimate.

Bronzes have always fared well in PBMA sales, and those entered in the Nov. 9 event were no exception. Rushman – a 62½-inch figural bronze sculpture by Canadian artist Sorel Etrog (1933-2014) – was in step with its estimate, reaching $57,200. Diego Giacometti’s (Swiss, 1902-1985) 7½-inch bronze avian sculpture titled Oiseau surpassed expectations, soaring to $41,600.

An entire session was dedicated to prints and editions, owing to their continued strength in the marketplace. The decision to showcase prints paid off handsomely with a 92% sell-through rate. The star lot was a signed David Hockney (British, b. 1937 -) artist’s proof/lithograph titled Hotel Acatlan. Created in 1985 on two sheets of HMP handmade wove paper, it was pencil-signed A.P. XIII/XX and authenticated by The David Hockney Foundation. The 38¾ by 84-inch artwork sold brushed its high estimate at $67,600.

Tom Wesselmann’s (American, 1931-2004) screenprint on museum board, signed and titled Monica sitting with Mondrian, #60 from a 1989 edition of 100, reached $22,100; while his 1989 Big Blonde screenprint, #34 from an edition of 100, earned $18,200. Both surpassed their high estimates.

Many other prints sold above estimate, including two Ellsworth Kelly lithographs, $7,800 and $9,100; Joan Miro’s (Spanish, 1893-1983) La Harpie aquatint artist’s proof on paper, $9,100; and Yaacov Agam’s Homage a Tantra polymorph, $16,900 against a $3,000-$5,000 estimate. Alex Katz and Joel Shapiro prints were 100% sold.

A wealth of high-quality midcentury modern furniture was also offered. Top lots included a small deep-relief Paul Evans cabinet, $22,100; and a Philip and Kelvin LaVerne “Tao” coffee table, $7,800.

“We marketed heavily on an international scale and it resulted in a global event beyond anything we had experienced before,” Baca said. “There were phone bidders from all over Europe, Hong Kong, Israel, Canada, Pakistan, and even islands so remote, we had to look up the country codes to call them. We’re one of few auction houses that will organize phone lines on the actual day of a sale. As always, there was very strong online and phone bidding from the United States, especially from New York, the Hamptons, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, and here locally from Palm Beach and Miami.”

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