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Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne

François-Xavier Lalanne, was the French artist known for surrealistic sculptures that often doubled as furniture.  With his wife Claude lalanne, also an artist, François-Xavier enjoyed great success with fashion designers, with commissions from the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Hubert de Givenchy and Karl Lagerfeld. Marc Jacobs, John Galliano and François Pinault collected works by the Lalannes, too.

“François-Xavier blended classicism with invention,” said Mitterrand “He was someone with references beyond our era,” continued Mitterrand. “His work had something of the Renaissance and ancient Greece and Rome. He admired Nicolas Poussin and Bach. There was a surrealistic touch in the way he transformed sculpture into everyday objects.”

Though often considered a team, Claude and François-Xavier seldom worked together, although their work bore a similar aesthetic.  François-Xavier’s work mostly took animal form, such as a bronze rhinoceros desk and a hippopotamus bar and Claude’s botanical-inspired furniture and flatware, are elegantly oblivious of the boundaries between fine and decorative art.

For the late Saint Laurent, François-Xavier created a bar with an egglike dome in which bottles were concealed. His wife, whose work was more organic, created a series of 15 bronze mirrors festooned with vines that were hung in the music room of Saint Laurent’s home on the Left Bank.

The Lalannes even collaborated with Saint Laurent for a bronze breastplate that served as the bodice of a gown in 1969.  Recently, the Lalannes’ work has found its way into fashion boutiques from Chanel to Dior. A Claude Lalanne gold crocodile reception desk greets shoppers at Tom Ford’s Madison Avenue flagship.

Decorator Peter Marino, himself an avid collector, used François-Xavier’s sculptures in the arrangement of Chanel’s fine jewelry shops, including a piece inspired by a stag in Coco Chanel’s apartment. “He was able to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary,” he said.

Reed Krakoff, executive creative director of Coach, is another avid collector. Two years ago, he published a book devoted to the Lalannes’ oeuvre.

A well kept secret in the art world, the Lalanne’s have produced collaborative and independent pieces for over 50 years. Francois, a man of short stature who, to me, looked goofy but very artsy in his round glasses, was known for his oversized and animal-shaped sculptures and furniture. Claude, a woman of similar stature (it’s wierd how long time couples resemble each other, like brother and sister), is known for her delicate and organic furniture and household accessories. During the course of their artistic careers, these two ascended above trends. During movements such as Pop Art, abstraction, and figuratitism, these two stuck to their Surrealist, decorative, and anthropomorphic style.

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