The Sardines Box
The J.M. Weston House is restoring an emblematic work by François-Xavier LALANNE, the sardine box, sold at auction by Sotheby's on October 4, 2023.
In 1972, François-Xavier Lalanne conceived a unique "water bed": a wide leather-clad box open to a series of silver sardine-shaped cushions for lounging upon. It's a cheerful, impertinent, and sensual sofa, created by one of the greatest French designers of the 20th century. He, along with his partner Claude, formed an uncategorizable couple of artists always eager to give sculpture a function, no matter how surreal it may be.
The "Sardine Box" was commissioned by Jane Holzer, also known as Baby Jane, a superstar in Andy Warhol's films. The former actress and model, who had become an art collector, organized an exhibition dedicated to artist furniture on September 7, 1972, at the vast gallery of Leo Castelli. About ten artists participated in the exhibition, including Robert Rauschenberg and Donald Judd. The artwork was later exhibited in Paris at another famous art dealer's gallery, Alexandre Iolas.
More than fifty years later, the artwork is being offered at auction by Sotheby's as part of a special sale scheduled for October 4, 2023. Comprised of a wooden and foam structure entirely clad in calf leather, the Sardine Box has borne the ravages of time. It took nothing less than the expertise of a craftsman from the J.M. Weston manufacture in Limoges to restore the leatherwork of this historic piece.
This exceptional restoration was carried out in close collaboration with the daughter of Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, who herself participated in the creation of the Sardine Box in 1972. Within the workshop, the artwork had to be approached with the utmost delicacy, as the leather used in furniture is not treated the same way as that used in footwear. An entire week was required to restore the bed, find the right silver color, and dye the leather uniformly with a stamp, patiently ensuring that it would not bleed. This unprecedented restoration serves as the most striking illustration of this approach, showcasing the unmatched craftsmanship of the House when it comes to leather.