by Carol Vogel

A RARE BLACK SHEEP

Being the black sheep isn’t always a bad thing. The artist François-Xavier Lalanne made hundreds of sculptures of sheep, but only a handful of them are black. It’s been seven years since a black sheep has come to market. But now a flock of 24 Lalannes — that includes one black among the eight standing and 16 grazing animals — is being sold at Christie’s on Nov. 14, in its important New York evening sale of postwar and contemporary art. The flock, which once adorned the East Hampton home of the oil heiress Adelaide de Menil and her husband, Edmund S. Carpenter, is expected to sell for $4 million to $6 million. Proceeds from the auction are going to benefit the Rock Foundation, which supports anthropological and archaeological research, publishing and films.

Until recently Lalanne’s sheep sculptures were relegated to decorative-arts auctions. But when his work began bringing high prices, auction house experts started reconsidering where his creations would fare best. In Paris three years ago a bar commissioned by the fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé was sold at Christie’s for $3.9 million. In London at a Sotheby’s sale in May of property from the estate of Gunter Sachs, the German industrialist and playboy who died last year, a group of three white sheep brought $2.5 million. And in December at an auction of 20th-century decorative art and design at Christie’s in New York, a group of 10 sheep (none black) brought a record price of nearly $7.5 million for one of his flocks at auction.

“This is the first time we’ve seen sheep in a postwar and contemporary-art evening sale,” said Brett Gorvy, who heads that department at Christie’s worldwide. “Many key collectors have started taking a new look at Lalanne’s sculptures. Back in the ’70s they were considered very daring and very Pop.”


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