LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Les Lalanne by Peter Marino


The unclassifiable work of the French sculptors Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne is celebrated at a major retrospective in Paris designed by their friend and promoter, the architect Peter Marino.

It is often cited that one of major factors that has contributed to the recent interest in the work of the French sculptors Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne was the sale of a mirror designed for the apartment of Yves Saint Laurent at the record-breaking auction of the fashion designer’s art collection in 2009. While it is true that the mirror garnered Les Lalanne, as they are popularly known, acres of publicity, the rise in appreciation for their work should be credited to another designer, the architect Peter Marino.

Peter Marino met Les Lalanne in the 1970s through the Iolas Gallery in his home city of New York and began collecting their work, building a personal collection that now consists of over 50 pieces. He became great friends with the artists, who made annual visits to his home in South Hampton, New York, to install specially commissioned items, including a lily pond for his daughter who wanted to skip on water. Moreover, Marino commissioned pieces for his interior design projects for private individuals (who include Georgio Armani and Valentino) and luxury brands (Dior, Four Seasons hotels), introducing the work of Les Lalanne to his influential client list.

Claude and her late husband Francois-Xavier began working together in 1956, jointly exhibiting sculptures that they created independently. Both found inspiration in nature and shared a belief that sculpture should be functional and “hands on.” Their work was purchased by major collectors including Yves Saint Laurent and members of the Rothschild family, even before Marino began to use Lalanne sculptures in his work.

In recognition of Marino’s role in championing Les Lalanne, Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris invited the architect to design a major retrospective of their work. The exhibition, which has recently opened, includes a herd of Francois-Xavier’s iconic sheep, as well as hippopotamuses that open to become desks, rhinoceroses that are in fact bathtubs and chickens that hide beds, among other animals-as-art. It is a zoo of sculpture that is organized as a private residence, revealing not only Marino’s talent for interior decoration, but also his understanding of the work of Les Lalanne as sculpture that should be touched, opened, sat on and interacted with.

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Les Lalanne runs through to July 4, 2010, at Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

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