This autumn Ben Brown Fine Arts is delighted to present Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne, a major exhibition devoted to the wonderful and whimsical work of French artists Claude and the late François-Xavier Lalanne. Choreographed by interior designer Manfredi della Gherardesca, the exhibition brings together almost 30 works by both artists, including Claude Lalanne’s latest creations.
Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne met in Paris in 1952 and began working and exploring the natural world together through sculpture. Their early days together were marked by interactions with the thriving community of artists in Montparnasse, not least François-Xavier’s early neighbour Constantin Brâncuși who inspired his transition from painting to sculpture. While very distinct in their styles, with François-Xavier’s witty, bold and majestic animal sculptures - commonly doubling as functional storage spaces - in contrast to Claude’s delicate flora and fauna inspired pieces, together they created a world of fantasy, their work in many ways defying categorisation.
Only in recent years has the work of ‘Les Lalanne’ achieved iconic status, propelled by the 2009 Christie’s Paris sale of Yves Saint Laurent’s collection and a major retrospective at Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris in 2010, curated by an ardent collector and admirer, Peter Marino. Their cult-like following has grown exponentially and now includes private collectors and luminaries from around the world such as Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, François Pinault and Bernard Arnault.
At the age of 91, Claude is still creating captivating works from her home and studio near Fontainebleau, a creative environment she shared with her husband for nearly half a century. For this exhibition she has produced a number of striking new sculptures including the Choupatte Géante (2016), representing an oversized cabbage with chicken legs. Choupatte is amongst Claude’s most notorious works and a theme that has run through her work over the last decades. An early example on display is the small nymph-like Olympe (1988/1994) adorned with foliage, while her most famous variation L’Homme à Tête de Chou, provided inspiration for the title and sleeve of Serge Gainsbourg’s 1976 album.
Other new works include a pair of Fauteuils Entrelacs (2015) and five elaborate Miroirs, evocative of the Art Nouveau movement with their flowing curves and natural forms. Always inspired by her surroundings, Claude’s process involves moulding organic forms directly from life, using contemporary electroplating methods.
In dialogue with these works, the gallery presents a large herd of Moutons Transhumant (1991) and Moutons de Laine (1965/1974), the iconic sheep by François-Xavier Lalanne. The Moutons became a popular symbol of François-Xavier’s work and were the animals to feature most heavily in his oeuvre right up to the end of his career. These are showcased alongside Babouin (1984), a quirky cast iron fireplace, as well as the graceful Table aux Pieds de Cerf (1995/2015) and Mouflon de Pauline (1993/2008), reflecting the artist’s delicate attempts at bringing nature into the home.