Shortly after watching a flock of ten epoxy stone and patinated bronze sheep designed by François-Xavier Lalanne rocket to a new auction record of $7.5 million (that’s $6.6 million, plus commissions) on Saturday afternoon at Christie’s in New York, we were sure it had all been a dream—an ill-timed seasonal mix of dodgy eggnog, the Rockefeller Center tourist mob, and pre-nap sheep counting ($1 million, $2 million, $3 million…). But the auction house and our trusty notebook have confirmed that it actually happened, with the ovine sculptures accounting for a good chunk of the $11.3 million total for Christie’s sale of 20th century decorative art and design.
A trio of Lalanne lots came late in the sale, immediately following a Ron Arad table and a Greg Lynn blobwall for which there were no takers. In the saleroom, private dealer Guy Bennett, bidding on behalf of someone on the other end of his cell phone who he referred to only as “Sir,” beat out phone bidders for a single Lalanne lamb, paying $122,500 (all prices include commissions) for the 1997 work, which was estimated to sell for between $20,000 and $30,000. A patinated bronze bird didn’t fly past it’s high estimate when a phone bidder snapped it up for $170,500. And then came the sheep. As representatives of the seller, Japan’s Tateshina Open Air Museum, looked on gleefully, Bennett (in constant communication with the aforementioned Sir) and a phone bidder gave the room—and auctioneer Philippe Garner—a tennis match, as their bidding war quickly sent the price beyond the $900,000 high estimate to $2 million (awed silence), $4 million (raised eyebrows), and $6 million (audible gasps), until Bennett won the flock for a hammer price of $6.6 million. He promptly tucked his paddle under his arm and left the room, having ensured a good night’s sleep for one deep-pocketed collector.