The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Saturday, October 23, 2021

Eccentric Hippopotamus bathroom suite by François-Xavier Lalanne sells for $2.4 million at Sotheby's
François-Xavier Lalanne, Unique Famille Hippopotames, 1992. Patinated bronze, copper, gilt metal, wood and glazed ceramic. Lot sold: 2,112,500 EUR. Courtesy Sotheby's.

PARIS.- Sotheby’s sale of ‘Important Design’ was led by a one-of-a-kind hippopotamus themed bathroom suite, which sold for €2.1 million / $2.4 million (lot 115, est. €2-2.5 million). Designed by François-Xavier Lalanne, an artist renowned for his ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, the three bronze life-size hippopotamuses - a mother and children – feature moveable parts that reveal a bathroom set like no other, comprising a bathtub, working sink and vanity, toilet and bidet. Commissioned in the nineties by the present owner, the sale marked the first time the spectacular piece has been offered at auction.

A further five works by the designer were offered in the ‘Important Design’ sale, which totalled €11.2 million / $12.6 million, soaring above its pre-sale estimate of €7.1-10 million. 82% of the lots offered were sold, with 70% of those exceeding their high estimates. The auction saw 52% of its participants bid online, and over a third of all bidders were aged 40 or younger. Among the other pieces offered by Lalanne was Lapin à Vent, which leaped beyond its high estimate to sell for €1.9 million / $2.2 million (est. €1-1.5 million) – the second highest price achieved in the sale.

Further Highlights: Aigle Vase by Alberto Giacometti more than doubled its high estimate to bring a total of €1.5 million / $1.6 million (lot 51, est. €400.000-600.000) in its auction debut. This is the second highest price realised for a vase by the artist, following Giacometti’s "Aigle” Vase that sold for $1.9 million at Sotheby’s New York in December 2019.

Two tables from the Art Déco period both exceeded their estimates in yesterday’s sale: made in 1930, Eugène Printz and Jean Dunand’s table tripled its high estimate, bringing a total of €225.000 / $252,662 (lot 30, €60.000-80.000), while Eileen Gray’s pine design reached €275.000 / $308,808 (lot 35, est. €120.000-150.000).

This week, two sales of Contemporary Art reached a combined total of €19.8 million / $22.3 million. Sotheby’s Evening Sale in Paris realised €15.4 million / $17.3 million, with a sell-through rate of 80%. The Day Sale also achieved €4.4 million / $5 million, exceeding its pre-sale estimate of €2.7-4 million. More than 90% of the lots offered were sold – a record sell through rate for a Contemporary Day Sale staged by Sotheby’s France.

Top Lot: The evening auction was led by Pierre Soulages’ masterpiece Peinture 130 x 162 cm, 14 avril 1957. Having remained in the same private European collection for over twenty-five years, bidders competed for the work, pushing the final price to €4.4 million / $4.9 million (lot 7, est. €3-5 million). Elsewhere in the sale, two further works by the artist were offered: Peinture 65 x 50 cm that sold for €1.1 million / $1.2 million (lot 9, est. €500.000-700.000) and Gouache 65 x 50.5 cm, which realised €336.500 / $379,851 (lot 6, est. €120.000-180.000).

Further Highlights: Three paintings by Zao Wou-Ki were among the highest prices achieved on the night. Hailing from the private collection of Arthur T. Hadley II, a prominent journalist for Newsweek and New York Herald Tribune, Wou-Ki’s monumental, 10.2.81, led this group of works after reaching €2.8 million / $3.1 million (lot 4, est. €2.4-2.8 million). From the same collection, the artist’s large-format composition, the title of which pays tribute to his late brother, A la memoire de mon frere Wu-Wai (11.02.79), realised €1.9 million / $2.2 million (lot 3, est. €1.8-2.5 million). A third painting titled 17.5.63 from an esteemed Irish collection sold for €1.8 million / $2 million (lot 10, est. €1.5-2 million).

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