Since 1956 the husband and wife team, known as Les Lalanne, has forged a course singularly their own with an oeuvre that is inventive, poetic, and surreal. While each has a distinct practice, their sculptures often take on hybrid forms with novel functions inserting the natural world into intimate spaces. Prefacing their first joint exhibition in 1964, American sculptor James Metcalf declared the work of Les Lalanne “as individual and unique as every one of us”.
One such sculpture is François-Xavier’s Hippopotame II (bar), 1976. Cast in bronze, the animal’s jaws and belly open to reveal hidden compartments for its intended purpose of a fully functioning bar. Moutons de Laines (Troupeau de 3), 1974, among his best known and beloved figures, were first introduced in 1965 at the Salon de la Jeune Peinture in Paris. Made of wool and bronze on casters, the sheep double as benches, while playfully suggesting a flock of three sheep, at once bringing joie de vivre and breaking up the monotony of daily life.
Claude, known for seamlessly fusing natural elements from her garden, intertwines branches, leaves, and crocodile skins to create furniture such as gingko benches, croco bureaus and bamboo tables. The iconic Gingko sculpture embodies a surrealist impulse to play with seemingly implausible forms and contexts. In Banc Gingko, 2011, Claude enlarges the tree’s unique fan-shaped leaves to a fantastical size. Rendered in gilt bronze, they entwine with branches to form the back, seat and legs of the bench, while preserving the harmonious asymmetry of its organic form.
Les Lalanne will also feature Yves Saint Laurent’s 1993 commission of Miroir. Standing at 9.5 feet tall, it is the largest, single mirror Claude has ever made. This work along with three new mirrors are a continuation of mirrors that once lined the walls of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s Rue Bonaparte library.
Claude Lalanne (b. 1924 in Paris) studied architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts before meeting her husband and collaborator François-Xavier Lalanne (b. 1927 in Agen, died 2008 in Ury, France). Claude and François-Xavier developed careers and their idiosyncratic aesthetics in tandem creating a body of work that defied both genre and artistic trends of the era.
In 2010, Les Lalanne were the subject of a major retrospective at Paris’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs, curated by the architect Peter Marino, as well as a public exhibition held at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida. Their work was shown on the Park Avenue malls as part of New York City Parks Public Art Program and in the sale of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent. Les Lalanne’s work is part of major collections internationally, including the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, the Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne/Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, the City of Paris, the City of Santa Monica, and the City of Jerusalem.