Histoires naturelles. Dation François-Xavier et Claude Lalanne au Musée des Arts Décoratifs

from 14 April to 29 May 2022

Following the death of Claude Lalanne in 2019, nearly eleven years after François-Xavier’s passing in 2008, the Lalanne family proposed to the French State an ensemble of artworks by their parents, presented in this exhibition, in acceptance in Lieu of death tax duties. Under French law, artworks that represent an important national heritage may be accepted by the State in payment of succession taxes: one names them dations. In the past, such dations have permitted the heirs of important artists such as Pablo Picasso to settle their inheritance. In Picasso’s case, the family’s dation led to the creation of the Musée Picasso in Paris. Thanks to the present dation, the national collections are now enriched of 54 works – 16 sculptures and 38 drawings – representative of the work of Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne.

54 “Lalannes”, to use the expression coined by writer François Nourissier at a 1966 exhibition at the Galerie Alexandre Iolas in Paris. This exceptional ensemble illustrates their respective careers, reuniting some of their very first pieces with later work – many sculptures that have achieved quasi mythical status, given their presence in collections world-wide. The balance between unique works and multiple editions also reflects the spirit of collections held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. The decision was made by the government to entrust these 54 pieces to the museum, so they could be exhibited alongside the other “Lalannes” already in the museum’s collection. In 2010, a successful retrospective was organized by the museum, also in the Nef, with a scenography signed Peter Marino. On this occasion, Gregory and Regina Annenberg Weingarten and the Annenberg Foundation gifted the museum with the famous Rhinocrétaire II (1966), which has become an icon of the museum. These pieces are now listed in the museum’s inventory, a symbolic gesture that resides at the heart of the mission of all museums. It is the greatest homage we can pay to an artist. All pieces on display come from the Lalanne inheritors’ dation, unless otherwise mentioned.

Partners in life and in art, and sublime sculptors considered a unit in the eye of the public, Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne were renowned for drawing inspiration from nature and animals in the design of their creations. Often hybrid, their works stir emotion, surprise, and amusement – a poetry cultivated by Surrealism and an artistic vision guided by plays on words, forms, and materials. With this same freedom, the Lalannes also play with the hierarchy of the arts, innovatively bestowing their majestic sculptures with function and purpose. While French public collections include exceptional examples of their works, and ever-more-so thanks to the dation made to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the international scope of their career has also led to the Lalanne’s works featuring prominently in noteworthy private collections around the world.

François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008), Rhinocrétaire II, 1966
Laiton, corne de rhinocéros, bois gainé de tôle de laiton polie, cuir, acier. Achat du Rhinocrétaire II grâce au mécénat de Gregory et Regina Annenberg Weingarten / GRoW @ Annenberg, 2010. Inv. 2010.1.1
© Les Arts Décoratifs / photo : Jean Tholance © Adagp, 2022

In France, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs displays a selection of outstanding pieces that highlight the art and career of the Lalannes, including the gold Bouche (Mouth) necklace, the Ronce (Brambles) necklace, a piece of silverware from the Lolas set by Claude Lalanne, the Rhinocrétaire II, a masterpiece by François- Xavier Lalanne, made possible thanks to the generous donation of Gregory and Regina Annenberg Weingarten / GRoW @ Annenberg, and a Crocodile (Crocodile) bench by Claude Lalanne. The Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne Dation is structured around the sixteen works from the dation, offering a combination of unique objet d’art, career milestones, and creations rendered famous by their editions, all in keeping with the age-old mission of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs – “to keep alive in France the culture of the arts which seek to make useful things beautiful.” Displayed on podiums in a minimalist, checkerboard formation, the sixteen works dialogue with pieces from the Permanent Collections of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, representing a conversation between furniture and decorative arts, the Lalanne’s two greatest artistic interests.

Of the sixteen pieces in the exhibition, nine are the work of François-Xavier Lalanne and include two unique creations: La Mouche (The Fly, 1966-1967) and Hippopotame I (Hippopotamus I, 1966- 1969), which incorporates a sink and a bathtub. These two pieces immediately denote the strong characteristics of François-Xavier Lalanne’s work, his entry into the history of sculpture, a taste for the monumental, and a pronounced sense of poetry and humor.

François-Xavier Lalanne, Bélier, 2008 / Agneau, 2010 / Brebis, 2001
Founder Landowski, Edition 236/250 / Founder Blanchet, Edition 290/500 / Founder Landowski, Edition 247/250. Bronze, epoxy resin
© Les Arts Décoratifs / Photo: Christophe Dellière © Adagp, 2022

The dation also incorporates his projects for Têtes Habitables (Inhabitable Heads) from the early 1970s, including two models stemming from collaborative projects with architect Émile Aillaud (b. 1902 – d. 1988), as well as preparatory drawings and iconic sculptures such as Singe Avisé (Wise Monkey, 2010).

Additionally, a set from the series Nouveaux Moutons (New Sheep, 2008), evokes the logical continuation of François-Xavier Lalanne’s research, taking the concept of wooly sheep and adapting them for the outdoors, a focus of exploration late in his career, when he developed a passion for garden art.

The seven works by Claude Lalanne demonstrate her ambition as a sculptor. The artistic signature, in both her thought and execution, shows how the object is detached from a purely decorative state, as seen in her Ginkgo furniture (2010- 2018) composed of a table, a bench and a pair of chairs, all of which echo the aesthetic explorations of the 19th Century and Art Nouveau, as well as the free and Surrealist imagination of French architect and designer, Emilio Terry (b. 1890 – d. 1969).

Claude Lalanne, Moyen Choupatte, 2019
Patinated bronze
© Les Arts Décoratifs / Photo: Christophe Dellière © Adagp, 2022

Claude Lalanne drew from Surrealism and a broad artistic culture to create L’Homme à la Tête de Chou (The Man with the Cabbage Head, 1968), which inspired French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg (b. 1928 – d. 1991) in the late 1960s, but also Choupatte (Cabbage Feet, 2019), and Pomme (Apple, 2015). Additionally, several preparatory drawings and sketches for key pieces such as Âne Attelé (Harnessed Donkey) and Canard (Duck), as well as Hippopotame (Hippopotamus) by François-Xavier Lalanne and studies for Claude Lalanne’s flatware complete the collection of works.

The Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne Dation presents a highly relevant collection of works by François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne while celebrating their place in the artistic history of the 20th and early- 21st centuries. This retrospective, hosted by one of the Lalanne’s greatest historical supporters, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, is a modern-day tribute to François- Xavier and Claude Lalanne and to their contribution to French national patrimony.

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