Les Lalanne: Makers of Dreams
"Unless you enter their world, you can't begin to understand how interesting it is ..."
Ben Brown Fine Arts, London
28th April – 29th July 2022
ON THURSDAY 28TH April, Ben Brown Fine Arts London will open the largest exhibition of works by Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne since their 2010 exhibition at Paris’s Museé des Arts Décoratifs. It is also the gallery’s first exhibition since the death of Claude Lalanne in 2019. Less well known in Britain than in their native France, this will be a rare opportunity to see over 100 works from across the career of this celebrated artist couple.
The show, exhibited over two venues, follows exceptional auction results at Sotheby’s Paris last year – where a dedicated sale brought in €79.3 million ($92.6 million) on a high estimate of just €14.5 million ($16.76 million), and twenty lots topped the €1 million ($1.15 million) mark. The auction had been preceded by a popular exhibition at the Palace of Versailles.
Italian designer Manfredi della Gherardesca has created a scenography for ‘Les Lalanne: Makers of Dreams’, specially designed to entice visitors to enter the artists’ world. Star works include François-Xavier’s ‘Sauterelle’ bar, and the bright blue, ingeniously functional ‘Hippopotame I’ and ‘Hippopotame II’ bars; Claude’s never previously exhibited ‘Lit Hibou et 2 Tables de Chevet’ (a bespoke bed and two side tables commissioned for a collector); and four iterations of Claude’s boldly surreal ‘Choupatte’.
On the eve of the opening of ‘Les Lalanne: Makers of Dreams’, The Design Edit interviews gallerist Ben Brown about his long association with the artist couple.
The Design Edit (TDE): When did you first meet Les Lalanne?
Ben Brown (BB): In 1994 my mother commissioned the bed that features in the show. Essentially, over the following years, I got to know their work as I got to know them. At the time I was working for Sotheby’s, but in 2004 I started my own gallery, and suggested to them that I could do something professionally with their work.
TDE: How was their work perceived in Britain at the time?
BB: They were totally unknown. My clients’ response to their work was one of complete and utter bewilderment. The problem with Les Lalanne is that you do not understand anything unless you enter their world – it is about a whole universe, which is their own and not yours. If you see one or two works you have no idea what this is all about. I got lucky because I went to meet them in France, at their home. But if you have not been to their home or seen one of the great exhibitions of their work – the 1976 Whitechapel show, or the 2010 MAD exhibition – you can’t begin to understand how interesting their world is.
TDE: How often have you shown their work in the UK and what has been the response?
BB: I have curated three previous exhibitions – working closely with the artists on the scenography. Even so, the response of our audience has been “What is this all about? Holy Cow!” Luckily prices at auction have helped to overcome this reaction.
TDE: What is it about their work that you most admire?
BB: I feel that these two artists created a universe into which they could draw you … and then shock and surprise you into being amazed at their incredible creations. I admire the way they could constantly bewilder you by bringing out more and more great, unique and unusual sculptures – they were creative geniuses.
TDE: What are you trying to do with this show?
BB: We are trying to unleash a world – to create an environment which represents their world. It is much more complex than seeing five new paintings in a room. When you walk into their world, you will understand it better.
Les Lalanne: Makers of Dreams at Ben Brown Fine Arts & Claridge’s ArtSpace.