A 'hippopotamus bar' by François-Xavier Lalanne goes to auction

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This functional and decorative hippo bar was created in 1986 by François-Xavier Lalanne.

One of François-Xavier Lalanne's most whimsical and iconic sculptures will be up for sale on November 23 at Sotheby's. This marks the first auction appearance of a "hippo bar" by the French artist since 1986.

This hippopotamus bar was created in 1986 and acquired that year by the parents of the current owners. It is one of the many creations of François-Xavier Lalanne to reconcile art and function. "When we can sit down on a work of art, it becomes more familiar," he used to say. His artistic vision gave rise to hybrid furniture such as a crocodile-chair, a sheep-bench, a gorilla-safe, a baboon-fireplace, a bird-bed and a fly-toilet.

Sotehby's describes the piece going up for auction on November 23 as an "impressive" and "functional" "Lalanne masterpiece" of "impressive design." One of the highlights of the sale, the bar is estimated at between 2 and 3 million euros, However, this amount is significantly lower than the 8.32 million euros for which "Leopard I" was recently sold at Sotheby's in Paris -- a record for the French artist.

Renewed interest in Lalanne

The hippopotamus bar will be auctioned off during the "Important Design" sale alongside other major pieces by the Lalanne couple. These include "Monkey II" by François-Xavier, estimated at 400,000 to 600,000 euros; and two woolen ottomans from the former collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, estimated at 150,000 to 200,000 euros.

While art collectors have long shown their interest for Lalanne's creations, the phenomenon has recently become more pronounced. Proof is the latest sale dedicated to the couple, organized by Sotheby's on November 4 in Paris. It raised 80.9 million euros, more than five times the amount expected by the auction house. All the lots found buyers and 20 of them exceeded the symbolic million euro mark.

The success of this sale is linked to the renewed attention museums are giving to works by the couple. The Palace of Versailles recently hosted some of their sculptures displayed in spaces like the Petit Trianon, the Queen's Hamlet and the English in a visit circuit. In the United States, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts also devoted a major retrospective to their relationship with nature. It was the first time in more than four decades that an American museum presented a focus on their work.

Caroline Drzewinski

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