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Reviews

Les Lalanne

A celebration of the poetic, surrealist style belonging to an extraordinary double act.

Kasmin
24th January – 9th March 2019

By Judith Gura / 1st May 2019

THE IDIOSYNCRATIC FURNITURE and objects by Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne have long been admired by a coterie of affluent collectors, but only in the past decade have Les Lalanne, as they called themselves, become international sensations. Their prominence began with the February 2009 sale of the Yves Saint Laurent/Pierre Berge collection at Christie’s in Paris, when a custom-made Lalanne bar sold for €2,753,000, and escalated with spiralling auction prices in New York. A well-received exhibition of Lalanne sculpture in 2010 at Miami’s Fairchild Botanic Garden added to the momentum. It seems that both the media and design aficionados have now embraced the unique creations of the husband-and-wife artists.

Installation view of Les Lalanne at Kasmin Gallery COURTESY: Kasmin Gallery PHOTOGRAPH: Christopher Stach

Installation view of Les Lalanne at Kasmin 
COURTESY: Kasmin / PHOTOGRAPH: Christopher Stach

Les Lalanne were celebrated in an ambitious exhibition that opened on January 24th in the flagship New York gallery of dealer Paul Kasmin, who introduced them to the American market in 2007. Internationally celebrated landscape designer Louis Benech curated the exhibition and designed a pristine environment to showcase more than 40 pieces of furniture, lighting and sculpture. Inspired by Claude Lalanne’s own garden in Ury, France, he transformed the high-ceilinged, 3,000-square-foot rectangular space with a network of white walls, platforms and intersecting passages. Austere in its simplicity, the space evokes the nave-and-transept plan – and the hushed reverence – of a house of worship.

Entering the gallery, visitors’ eyes were drawn down a broad central aisle, past a large red-enamelled bronze apple, to the centerpiece of the exhibition, a monumental 10’ x 6’ mirror on the far wall. The unique work from 2009 is framed in trailing vines of bronze with copper-plated leaves; it is the largest in a series made by Claude Lalanne, several of which were collected by Yves St. Laurent. Along the side aisles, Benech has deployed Claude’s furniture and decorative objects of cast or curled bronze in congenial vignettes, while François-Xavier’s bronze animals, marble chaises and two families of his iconic sheep seat-sculptures are arranged along the perimeter of the gallery.

Installation view of Les Lalanne at Kasmin Gallery COURTESY: Kasmin Gallery PHOTOGRAPH: Christopher Stach

Installation view of Les Lalanne at Kasmin 
COURTESY: Kasmin / PHOTOGRAPH: Christopher Stach

TWO YEARS IN the planning, the exhibition incorporated works spanning the Lalanne’s careers, from the ‘Moutons de Laine’ dating from 1969, to a pair of delicate bronze garden gates made by Claude specifically for the show. Some pieces came directly from the Lalanne studio, others from private collections, and almost all were for sale, at prices ranging from $145,000 to $2.5 million – not for the casual buyer, but less than a number of recorded sales of these artists’ works at auction.

Installation view of Les Lalanne at Kasmin Gallery COURTESY: Kasmin Gallery PHOTOGRAPH: Christopher Stach

Installation view of Les Lalanne at Kasmin 
COURTESY: Kasmin / PHOTOGRAPH: Christopher Stach

The Lalannes worked together for more than 50 years, from shortly after they met in 1952 and later married, until François-Xavier’s death in 2008. Though sharing an aesthetic embracing surrealism, whimsey and humour, they did not collaborate on design. The work of each is clearly recognisable – his is generally inspired by animals, hers by plant life. Claude, who will be 94 this year, continues to make her fantasy objects and jewellery; according to Kasmin director Edith Dicconson, “To say she’s a tour de force is an understatement.” The same term might be used to describe the exhibition, which is likely to further escalate interest in the artists it celebrates.

Kasmin – committed to supporting an ongoing intellectual and visual dialogue with influential Modern and Contemporary artists.

 

Article By

Judith Gura
Judith Gura is a New York-based writer and lecturer with a special focus on contemporary design. She has been covering the design market for the past two decades, and has published a number of books on modern design, furniture and interiors.