In this select offering no fewer than 104 of the 126 lots changed hands, to a truly international mix of buyers, to realise a premium-inclusive total of €9.9m.
This is the highest total in France for a various-owners auction in this category, beating the auctioneers’ own previous high of €7.8m in 2016.
Sale success is always down to available consignments. But within that universally applicable constraint, the high selling rates and prices at this event were allied to the auctioneers’ selection and assembly (or careful ‘curation’ as it is deemed these days).
This sale had a firm base from which to work, around three significant groups of material by a body of known French designers, three of them currently ticking all the boxes of the design zeitgeist.
The auction started with a group of 16 works by the French designer couple Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne. Seven of these had come from a single vendor who had acquired them direct from the artist.
Rounding off the auction was a group of 18 lots by Diego Giacometti; various owners’ consignments of his bronze furniture and decorative objects.
And between these two groups was another 18-lot ensemble of furniture by Jean Royère, much of it from a private collection in Lebanon, one of the Middle Eastern locations where the designer/decorator had a gallery.
The Lalannes and Giacometti are designers whom collectors cannot currently get enough of.
Both have a quirky appeal with their slightly surreal use of animal and vegetal motifs and sculptural creations.
As Sotheby’s departmental director Florent Jeanniard said, this choice was key, because the demand for these designers is global.
“Giacometti and the Lalannes appeal because they are universal. We can attract clients in Brazil, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai. Everybody can respond to a mouse or a toad.
“It draws collectors of modern and contemporary art as well as design enthusiasts, and we attracted a much broader audience than if we had offered just furniture and lamps.”
Lalanne all sold
Not only did every single Lalanne lot find a buyer – all bar one exceeded estimates, in many instances several times over.
The top Lalanne piece, as predicted, was Claude’s foliate Love Seat which sailed to €500,000 (£454,545), but there were numerous instances of François-Xavier’s animals eclipsing expectations. This did not just apply to his best-known ovine creations such as his mid-1960s wool, wood and aluminium single sheep at a double-estimate €425,000 (£386,365), but also to other fauna.
A 2ft 7in (80cm) high patinated bronze seated dog created in 1982, one of 12 (from an edition of eight plus four proofs), eclipsed its €60,000-80,000 guide to take €300,000 (£272,730). A couple of patinated bronze cranes standing 13 and 11in (33 and 28cm) high, numbered eight from an edition of eight, took the same price against a €40,000-60,000 guide.
Giacometti lots success
The 18 Giacometti lots also sold out, again with many making in excess of their estimates, even if prices did not outstrip the guides to the same degree as the Lalannes.
Top lot at €400,000 (£363,635) was a patinated bronze and oval glass-topped bat table of c.1979 measuring 4ft 3in (1.3m) at its widest.
A set of four bronze candlesticks commissioned from Giacometti by the Duchess of Cadaval for her summer home in Portugal in 1976-77 comprised traditional stick forms with groups of toads applied to the circular bases that could be removed to form free standing sculptures.
Offered as two pairs, these realised €150,000 (£136,365) and €230,000 (£209,090) respectively.
The 18 lots of furniture by Royère met with a more selective response, with five failing to change hands.
The highest prices in this section were for Ours Polaire furniture. A pair of red velvet upholstered armchairs c.1957 took a treble-estimate €400,000 (£363,635), and a blue velvet upholstered sofa of the same period sold for a double-estimate €270,000 (£245,455).
“They are iconic pieces,” said Jeanniard. “For the remainder it was more difficult as they are items of furniture and don’t necessarily appeal to everyone – it is a very American and European market.”
Adding a further €765,000 (£695,455) to the final total was the day’s top lot: the record-breaking rock crystal cubist head by Joseph Csaky pictured and discussed in last week’s issue (ATG No 2316).
Another opportunity to buy more pieces by the Lalannes arrives in the same rooms later this month as part of the Sotheby’s Paris sale of the collection of the decorator Jacques Grange on November 21-22.
£1 = €1.1