François-Xavier Lalanne’s Rhinocrétaire I Up for Auction

In a celebration of contemporary art and design, Paris is abuzz with excitement as it hosts Paris+ par Art Basel on 20th October.

Alongside this prestigious event, Christie’s is set to captivate art enthusiasts with a unique offering in its 20/21 auction series – Rhinocrétaire I. This remarkable sculpture by François-Xavier Lalanne, often regarded as his magnum opus, takes centre stage in a dedicated single-lot auction.

A Marvel of Functional Artistry

François-Xavier Lalanne’s Rhinocrétaire I transcends conventional boundaries, seamlessly melding sculpture and functional design. As Head of Sale Agathe de Bazin expresses, “Transcending the boundaries between sculpture and functional design, François-Xavier Lalanne’s rhinoceros is the work of a true visionary, which we are thrilled to offer to collectors this fall.”

François-Xavier Lalanne's Rhinocrétaire I Up for Auction

Within the armoured form of this unique rhinoceros lies a hidden treasure trove – a secretary desk, a bar, a safe, and lamps. Lalanne’s ingenious interpretation pays homage to the rich legacy of French decorative arts, specifically furniture with secret compartments. In Rhinocrétaire I, he artfully infuses this heritage with an avant-garde and modern twist, creating a masterpiece that seamlessly blends history and innovation.

A Reverence for Artistic Tradition

Rhinocrétaire I marks a pivotal moment in François-Xavier Lalanne’s artistic journey, serving as a seminal prototype for his future works. It embodies all the elements that would come to define his oeuvre. These elements would later find expression in iconic pieces such as Moutons de Laine, Bar Les Autruches, Baignoires Hippopotame, and Bar YSL. This sculpture sets the tone for the whimsical and poetically extravagant style that would become Lalanne’s signature for the next four decades.

In crafting this rhinoceros, François-Xavier Lalanne drew inspiration from the great artists who had depicted animals throughout history. From the Paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux to the works of Dalí and Dürer, Lalanne joined a lineage of artists captivated by the allure of animal representation. However, it is Lalanne’s mastery of metalwork that breathes life into his sculpture, distinguishing it as a masterpiece of its own.

François-Xavier Lalanne's Rhinocrétaire I Up for Auction

Provenance and Historical Significance

In 1964, François-Xavier Lalanne made a pivotal shift from painting to sculpting, embarking on a journey that would span nearly half a century alongside his partner Claude. At the Galerie J, the duo unveiled the revolutionary Rhinocrétaire I during the Zoophites exhibition. This marked the beginning of their joint identity as “Les Lalanne.”

After a brief public appearance in 2010 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) as part of Les Lalanne, this museum-quality work has been largely hidden from view. Rhinocrétaire I created two years before Rhinocrétaire II (1966), which now resides in the permanent collection of the MAD, is a testament to Lalanne’s creative genius.

Auction and Exhibition

Jeanine Restany played a pivotal role in the emergence of the Nouveau Réalisme movement, akin to Pop Art in Europe. She was responsible for iconic exhibitions, including Niki de Saint Phalle’s Feu à volonté, Christo’s Le Rideau de Fer, and Cy Twombly’s solo exhibition in Paris. Her close friendship with Les Lalanne ensured that Rhinocrétaire I remained within her family, a testament to her enduring influence on the Paris art scene.

François-Xavier Lalanne's Rhinocrétaire I Up for Auction

With a pre-sale estimate ranging from €4,000,000 to €6,000,000, Rhinocrétaire I promises to be the highlight of Christie’s Paris this autumn. Art enthusiasts can look forward to a dedicated exhibition, allowing them to appreciate the intricacies of this masterpiece up close. Additionally, a limited-edition catalogue will be available in early October, offering collectors and enthusiasts a deeper insight into this exceptional work of art.

In conclusion, François-Xavier Lalanne’s Rhinocrétaire I is a testament to artistic innovation and reverence for tradition. With its seamless blend of sculpture and functionality, it stands as a landmark in Lalanne’s illustrious career, captivating art connoisseurs and collectors alike. As it takes the spotlight at Christie’s Paris auction, it invites us to explore the boundaries of art and design, bridging the gap between the past and the present in a truly exceptional way.

Images: Christie’s

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