x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Build me an alligator sofa, and make it snappy

Michael Halliard will supply you with a chaise lounge made of alligator and goat skins, a buffalo hide loveseat, or a crocodile coffee table.

September 21, 2010, Abu Dhabi, UAE:    The Abu Dhabi Exhibition Center is gearing up for its annual Hunting and equestrian Exhibit, which opens tomorrow. Michel Haillard is a furniture designer who builds his works from real animal skin. He is represented at the Exhibition by Galerie Omagh, a Gallery on the left bank of Paris.    Lee Hoagland/ The National
September 21, 2010, Abu Dhabi, UAE: The Abu Dhabi Exhibition Center is gearing up for its annual Hunting and equestrian Exhibit, which opens tomorrow. Michel Haillard is a furniture designer who builds his works from real animal skin. He is represented at the Exhibition by Galerie Omagh, a Gallery on the left bank of Paris. Lee Hoagland/ The National

ABU DHABI // If your plain old leather sofa is starting to bore you, Michel Haillard may have the answer: a chaise longue made of alligator and goat skins, with zebu horns for armrests. A complete set of the French artist's taxidermy-style furniture can also include armchairs made of zebra and ostrich skins, a buffalo hide loveseat with decorative hippo teeth and antelope horns, and a crocodile coffee table. Nearly all of the pieces have the animals' tails draping to the floor.

The fixtures were on display for sale at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex) this weekend priced from €10,000 to €30,000 (Dh 50,000 to Dh150,000). That's a lot of euros. "People are intrigued by this kind of furniture as art, but it's also quite comfortable," said Daniel Goldmann, who oversaw the exhibit at Adihex. Mr Goldmann is the owner of Galerie Omagh in Paris, where Mr Haillard's pieces are sold.

Mr Haillard has been making the furniture for 15 years from stuffed animals or furs he finds at flea markets. He is occasionally commissioned for works and provided with raw materials from customers who want to sit on a specific animal. He calls his line "Infernal Furniture." "I create this furniture to make people dream, and to give life back to these animals," Mr Haillard said. "I get bad reactions sometimes, but if it causes any emotional reaction then that's a good thing."

He uses real skin because "the more real it is, the more you find yourself immersed in a certain story about the animal," he said. Mr Haillard has to get special authorisation from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) for some of the animals that he uses. Buyers receive the Cites trade certificate with their purchase. It is possible to get a trade certificate for material if the product does not represent a threat to the species. There is also an antique or so-called pre-convention certificate for materials that are older than the Cites treaty.

Mr Haillard has worked as a freelance cartoonist and in advertising. His other artwork involves sculptures and animated films. Mohammed Aneefa studied the furniture during his visit to Adihex and said he was impressed by their high quality. Still, he said he wasn't sure if the feelings they conjured up were anger or admiration for what he saw, and whether it was something he wanted to look at on a regular basis.

"I was thinking to buy it, but only because it is unique and interesting," he said. "Maybe it would make a good gift. Never would I put it in my house."

econroy@thenational.ae