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Les Lalannes - Musée de Arts Decoratifs

005_Nef-chameaux-7e16c Text: Anna Bromwich

The Lalannes: artists, designers, creators with a wild imagination.  Rhinoceroses that fold out into sofas, bronze casted cabbages with distinctly birdlike feet: the world as depicted by Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne is a surreal one. The husband and wife team, to whom the Musée de Arts Decoratifs have  dedicated a retrospective exhibition, have always encouraged the display of their work together although they create separately in their own styles. 

François-Xavier has a penchant for furniture in the shape of animals which could swing dangerously near tacky if they weren’t so beautifully constructed and minimally designed. An entire room in the exhibition is dedicated to furniture constructed in the form of a rhinoceros, an animal he repeatedly returned to. His brass rhinos with their Cheshire cat grins fold out into storage space and barbeques and a white leather version into armchairs and footstools. A brass cat-shaped mini-bar and a single four-poster bed capped with a bird’s head, both exectuted with understated elegance, look as though they would not be out of place in an ancient Egyptian queen’s parlour.

Where François-Xavier’s creations are bulky and streamlined Claude’s twists and turns reflect the Sixties resurgence of interest in Art Nouveau. Her signature use of electroplating to fuse animal and vegetable form has produced some surreal sculpture in the vein of moitié mec, moitié légume.  In 1969 she worked with Yves Saint Laurent to produce a cast-breast bustier for the model Veruschka that she would go on to wear in the Fall collection that year. Her series of mirrors framed in cast leaves with tentacles that curl around the glass and that were made for the late fashion designer, are displayed here for the first time following his death.

If you do not know the Lalannes chances are that you will recognise their work. Claude’s L’homme à Tête de Chou appears on the Gainsbourg record with the same name and François-Xavier is the man behind the Elephant garden in Jardin des Halles. Their work popped up in Musée D’Orsay’s Art Nouveau Revival exhibition at the start of this year, for anyone wanting to see the fly-shaped toilet again. The Lalannes have played a role in 20th century French design history and this exhibition designed by architect Peter Marino pays homage to that fact.

Les Arts Décoratifs
107 rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
Tél. : 01 44 55 57 50
Métro : Palais-Royal, Pyramides ou Tuileries
Open Tuesday to Sunday 11am-6pm, Thursday until 9pm
Tickets: 9/7,5 €

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