‘It really is a special piece,’ says Jeremy Morrison, European Head of Design at Christie’s, of François-Xavier Lalanne’s landmark Mayersdorff Bar (1966). Exploiting counterpoints of various, shiny metals and blown glass, as well as a succession of graceful curves, circles and spheres, the piece comes from the early period in Lalanne’s career when he was establishing himself internationally.
The Frenchman is widely known today for his animal-inspired pieces and exhibited in partnership with his wife, Claude, under the shared artistic name of Les Lalannes. However, with the Mayersdorff Bar, François-Xavier created something completely different, something Morrison describes as ‘cerebral and more discreet’.
The Mayersdorff piece is at once fully functional but also poetic: it can be used as a bar, yet has also been compared in appearance to planets in the solar system.
‘Then there’s the rarity factor,’ explains Morrison. It can also be considered as one of two related bars produced during this vital period. In 1965, Lalanne had created a similar bar for the fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent (sold at Christie’s in Paris in 2009, as part of The Collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé). Neither bar was ever exhibited publicly, and for both pieces, Lalanne made liberal use of an alloy called maillechort, a malleable blend of copper, zinc and nickel that invites subtle plays of light.
It is also considered one of a pair. In 1965, Lalanne had created a similar bar for the fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent (sold at Christie’s in Paris in 2009, as part of The Collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé). Neither bar was ever exhibited publicly, and for both pieces, Lalanne made liberal use of an alloy called maillechort, a malleable blend of copper, zinc and nickel that invites subtle plays of light.
Yves Saint-Laurent’s bar realised €2,753,000 — nine times its high estimate — and Morrison argues that that sale ‘truly energised’ the Lalannes’ market, which has continued to grow ever since.
‘In the design world right now, the two hottest properties are Diego Giacometti and the Lalannes. And I use the word “world” advisedly: they have global appeal and are growing particularly popular in Asia.’
This year’s sale didn’t manage to set a record for the artist at auction — that is still held by François-Xavier’s sheep sculpture, Mouton de Pierre — but the Mayersdorff Bar did achieve a price that was more than double its low estimate of $2,200,000 and set the highest price for any work by him in 2018.
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‘The seller had purchased the bar in 2010 for about €300,000,’ says Morrison. ‘Given the buzz around the Lalannes of late, and what a highlight the Mayersdorff Bar is in François-Xavier’s oeuvre, we advised the best policywould be to capitalise on its broader appeal as an major artwork of the era which pushes boundaries.
‘It’s a major post-war and contemporary work, with broad, crossover significance beyond the design sector. We felt it was deserving of a place in a Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York, and the reaction and its success at May’s auction [the piece sold for $4.57 million] confirms this was definitely the right approach.’