Les Lalanne: Makers of Dreams
"The work of Les Lalanne has become renowned the world over. The ways in which these artists created such discombobulating yet beautiful contradictions are part of their enduring appeal. It's a privilege having worked with the artists and now their legacies to be exhibiting such a widescale body of works."
Ben Brown Fine Arts is honoured to announce Les Lalanne: Makers of Dreams, an extensive survey of the work of the late legendary French artistic duo François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne - known collectively as 'Les Lalanne'.
Choreographed by famed Italian designer Manfredi della Gherardesca, this unprecedented body of over 100 works includes some of the most known pieces to date and will create a Les Lalanne magical menagerie spread across the iconic Mayfair locations, Ben Brown Fine Arts and newly opened Claridge's ArtSpace. There will be a selection of Lalanne jewellery from Louisa Guinness Gallery for sale at both venues. Ben Brown Fine Arts has exhibited the work of Les Lalanne for nearly two decades, yet this will mark their first show at the gallery following Claude's passing three years ago.
Della Gherardesca's exhibition choreography combines the heavenly and the bucolic, constructing a dreamlike equilibrium of Yin and Yang across the two spaces. In both, the nature-based style of Les Lalanne is the leitmotif and several of the welded sculptures 'float' with a surreal weightlessness above the clouds. While the flagship gallery takes on the guise of a nocturnal sky, a reverent nod to the late artists, the pure bright white of Claridge's ArtSpace is a vision of Heaven that alludes to the possibility that their works have entered this realm.
Following the recent Les Lalanne exhibition at the Château de Versailles as well as the major retrospective at the Museé des Arts Décoratifs in 2010, this will be the most extensive grouping of major sculptures by the duo to be shown in a gallery setting. The exhibition will feature Claude's never previously displayed Lit Hibou et 2 Tables de Chevet - a bespoke bed and two side tables commissioned for a collector - and such masterpieces as François-Xavier's ingeniously functional Hippopotame I, a life-size hippopotamus in blue resin which opens up to reveal a full bath suite, alongside the astonishing Hippopotame II (Bar). All four iterations of Claude's surrealist Choupatte will be presented with its superbly detailed veined cabbage leaves atop whimsical chickens' feet, with sizes ranging from a tabletop piece to a towering 180cm sculpture. François-Xavier's Sauterelle Bar is one of only two examples with the other version being kept in the Royal Collection as a donation by the French president in 1972; this is undoubtedly another one of his masterpieces and has rarely been shown publicly.
The exhibition showcases both recognizable and rarer works by each artist, touching upon all aspects of their oeuvre, with highlights including: Claude's fanciful gingko tables and chairs, flora-adorned mirrors, electroplated copper and bronze chandeliers, candelabra and lanterns, her widely celebrated Pomme and a silver cutlery service; François-Xavier's iconic Mouton, with examples in both stone and wool and other fantastical bronze bestiaries including a pair of wild boars, a monumental standing bear and a horned wild goat; and the artists' collaborative Singe aux Nénuphars, for which Claude created the tabletop that rests upon the outstretched arms of François-Xavier's monkey.
The enduring appeal of Les Lalanne lies in their playful ingenuity, taking inspiration from nature and creating from it a world of fantasy. Their works blur lines between functional design, fine art and the decorative arts, and are always suffused with surrealist associations, a characteristic wit and timeless elegance. While the duo shared a studio and exhibited together throughout their careers, their bodies of work are observably distinctive. Claude's work embodies a more sinuous and ethereal form with inspiration taken directly from nature, while François-Xavier's sculptures offer a gravity of form and functional ingenuity that redefine their original representation. While François-Xavier was drawn to the angularity of animals, Claude focused on the textures of flora and fauna. However, their works are inextricably linked and best appreciated when experienced collectively, evident as they transform the galleries into enchanting ethereal worlds.