A unique set of bronze hippopotamus fixtures— merging the surreal and utilitarian—will come to auction this summer. The gilded bathtub was made by leading 20th Century designer François-Xavier Lalanne—set to be offered at the auction house’s upcoming Design sale, in Paris. “Following our landmark two-day auction of the personal collection of the late artist duo Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne last October, it is a great feeling to once again be surprised and delighted by the genius of Les Lalannes, with perhaps one of their most brilliant metamorphoses.” said Florent Jeanniard, Head of 20th Century Design at Sotheby’s Europe.
The family set is coming to the market for the first time in history, since it was commissioned in the nineties by the consigner, a descendant of renowned Art Deco wildlife sculptor, Édouard-Marcel Sandoz. Following the highly successful sale of another version of Lalanne’s bronze cast golden hippo at Christie’s in November 2019—the piece sold for more than four times its low estimate of $1 million, ultimately fetching $4.3M—the bathroom set is another milestone moment for the iconic Lalanne legacy built on imagination of dream-like surroundings. Currently, the rare grouping carries the leading estimate of the Paris Design sale and is expected to sell for around €2.5 million.
Created to be a family, the largest animal of the group is poised as the mother, with a latched compartment on its back to access a bathtub, opening at the mouth to reveal a faucet sink and vanity. The two accompanying fixtures in the bathroom suite include a pair of smaller hippos, designed to mimic the mother’s offspring, comprising a toilet and bidet. Despite a playful imperative, the designers’ legacy remains at the vanguard of conceptual art and design, with commissions from top names in fashion like Karl Lagerfeld, as well as from their inner circle of modernist icons like Marcel Duchamp, for whom the original prototype for the hippo tub was made.
The iconic design duo leading the sale represent the intersection of art and luxury design, whose animalia works were meant to invoke a feelings of cohabitation with dreamworld characters—issuing functional use with a cross-genre aesthetic.