Lalanne, With Love

Design | Mar 2015 | BY Brook S. Mason

The somewhat surreal sculpture of Claude Lalanne and her late husband François-Xavier inspired by all things plucked from nature like tendrils of ivy and even animals such as stags have been in the forefront of style beginning when fashion designer Yves St. Laurent snared their quixotic bar for his home on the Left Bank in Paris.  Now their oeuvre is front and center in a new exhibition, “Les Lalanne,” staged by Chelsea dealer Paul Kasmin, running from March 26 to May 2.

Petit Lapin Debout a Collerette, 2006

Petit Lapin Debout a Collerette, 2006

What’s decidedly different about this gallery show is the way their celebrated work is featured. Kasmin cleverly brought on landscape gardener extraordinaire Madison Cox whose clients include such noted figures as Marella Agnelli, Pierre Bergé and even former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to conjure up a labyrinth setting with élan. A pair of garden gates flanks the entrance.

Why so many bronze examples destined for a garden in a hipster gallery best known for cutting edge art and design by the likes of Will Ryman and Ron Arad? “There’s always been a groundswell of interest in garden sculpture in Europe,” says Kasmin.  “And now it’s being replicated here” he says. Lalanne fanciers include Tom Ford and Peter Marino as well as Agnes Gund and Jane Holzer.  Even the Russians have taken to Lalanne sheep.

Lalanne with Peter Marino

“Madison and I have the same spirit and the same state of mind,” says Claude Lalanne who is now approaching 90 and has known Cox for more than 30 years.

In addition to rabbits and crocodile seating is her latest rendition of a suite of eighteen mirrors framed by lily pads, which no less than Pierre Bergé ordered up for the dinning room of the pad he shared with St. Laurent for decades. “It’s the first time they’ve been produced,” says Kasmin of the mirrors, which cost in excess of $100,000 each. By opening night, more than half of the examples had been sold.

Lalanne’s Honeysuckle candle, available at PK SHOP

Even so, smaller pieces by Lalanne with relatively modest prices by Lalanne can be found at the PK Bookstore like a delicate gilded silver bracelet topped by a butterfly in a signed edition of 50 for $4,000.  In addition, she has created the ultimate candle in which the candleholder is encased in honeysuckle tendrils for $5,000.

But if you can’t make it to this exhibition, grab the tome Les Lalanne: Fifty Years of Work, 1964-2015 edited by critic Adrian Dannatt.  Filled with archival photos by such leading lights as Guy Bourdin and François Halard, there are interviews and testimonials from Carla Fendi and Laurence Graff. “The Lalannes are visionaries,” says Dannatt.  “After all, what other designers have received tribute from Brancusi right up to Marc Jacobs?”

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