Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Fashion and supply have both played their part. The result is that auctions that were once titled Decorative Arts and rested heavily on the pan-European Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements now major on pieces by more recent names.

These days furniture by Mollino, Arad, or Giacometti is more likely to take top honours than Ruhlmann or Majorelle.

Design auctions take place throughout the year but there are concentrations in the schedule. One of these is New York in the spring when Paris, another major centre, is also busy.

This review of recent sales on both sides of the Atlantic surveys sale-topping results for current favourites the Lalannes and strong results for the ‘biomorphic’ creations of Jean Royère.

And alongside the streamlined modernism that populates much Scandinavian design we look at some more organic creations by a less well-known Danish designer maker.

The Lalannes’ animal magic

The design world’s love affair with François-Xavier (1927-2008) and Claude Lalanne continues apace. Known as Les Lelanne, you will find their quirky works populating both the stands of leading art fairs and the upper echelons of an auction price list.

François-Xavier’s sheep, whether as flocks or single ovine creations, are much in evidence. However, as this selection of best-sellers from sales on both sides of the Atlantic demonstrates, the menagerie extends to other species from the animal kingdom and to Claude Lalanne’s foliate Ginko designs and beyond.

One of the highest prices at the rostrum for the Lalanne’s work in recent months came in a sale of Contemporary Art held at Christies (25/20/12.5% buyers premium) on May 17. Bettering its estimate at $3.8m (£2.85m) was an early, unique creation by François-Xavier Lalanne from 1966. This bar made from various metals and blown glass featuring spherical and ovoid forms, had been created for M and Mme Mayersdorff of Brussels.

There were enough Lalanne creations offered in Sothebys (25/20/12% buyers premium) triple design sale fest in New York last month to constitute a zoo. Typifying the couple’s inventiveness was François-Xavier’s Sauterelle (Grasshopper) bar that realised $1.35m (£1.01m) in the mixed owner auction on May 24. A piece from 1970 produced in an edition of just two, in porcelain, polished brass and steel, the 5ft 8in (1.75m) long insect opens up along the top to reveal the bar compartments.

The Krakoff sale of design included Lalanne pieces sourced from their various homes in Paris, New York and New England

Krakoff collection

The Delphine and Reed Krakoff sale of design on May 23 included Lalanne pieces sourced from their various homes in Paris, New York and New England. Claude Lalanne’s Crocodile armchair at $600,000 (£451,130) was complemented by a selection of François-Xavier’s sheep in various materials and sizes.

A flock of four moutons de laine, comprising one free standing sheep dated 1971 and three ottomans dated 1968, realised $1m (£751,880) while a single bronze, wood and black wool sheep from 1968 realised $600,000 (£451,130).

This surpassed the £390,000 bid at Phillips London rooms in April for another single wool sheep.


Lalanne flock of wool sheep comprising single sheep and four ottomans – $1m (£751,880) in the Krakoff collection sale at Sotheby’s New York, May 23.

More moutons featured in the design sale at Sotheby’s Paris rooms on May 3 but the top Lalanne price there was for a unique, non-animal design.

François-Xavier’s drawing board and stool, which was branded and dated ‘64 had a notable provenance. It was commissioned by the fashion designer Karl Lagerfield for his Paris apartment, passing in the 1970s to the interior decorator Jacques Grange. Last month it realised €620,000 (£543,860).

Back in the animal kingdom, the sale also featured a 2ft 6in (77cm) high François-Xavier Gorille Derangé, a 2014 bronze cast of a 2007 model in an edition of four that realised €240,000 (£210,000).

There was plenty of Lalanne too in Christie’s equivalent Paris design sale on May 22 with 16 lots ranging from epoxy sheep and bronze animals to jewellery.

A medium-sized version of François-Xavier’s 2003 shark cast in manganese white bronze, signed and numbered 3 from an edition of 8 (plus three proofs), was the most expensive at €400,000 (£350,870).

£1 = $1.33 = €1.14 = DKr8.5