A Trip to the Wonderland of Les Lalanne

Entering The Poetry of Sculpture: Les Lalanne exhibit at Sotheby’s is a bit like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole and winding up in a peculiar wonderland where nothing is quite as it seems–but that’s precisely the point. “We wanted to create an alternate world with the Midnight Garden,” exhibition co-curator Michael Shvo told Milk Made. “A beautiful setting for these sculptures to live that coincided with the artists’ original vision.”

Husband and wife duo François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne, collectively known as Les Lalanne, have exhibited their work together for over fifty years. F.X., as he is often called, is known for his sculptures of animals, ranging from monkeys and owls to his iconic moutons–sheep. Claude tends to favor botanicals, creating works that incorporate enormous gingko leaves, flower-filled branches, and delicate twigs. “Their individual aesthetics are immediately recognizable yet provide the perfect complement to each other," said the pair’s longtime gallerist and co-curator Paul Kasmin.

“They have created an amazing body of work that is rooted in surrealism and the unexpected,” Shvo said. “François was particularly interested in the idea of taking elements from their environment, the French countryside, and putting them somewhere they don’t necessarily belong–like having a sheep in your living room.”

The Lalanne’s playful spirit fills the Midnight Garden, where snails point the way (Direction de L’Escargot), crocodiles lounge on console tables (Crococonsole), and apples take on epic proportions (Pomme d’Hiver). It is that sense of enchantment that initially attracted Kasmin to their work: “I remember the first time I ever visited them at their home in the country, it was a truly magical experience.” His first acquisition from the couple, Metaphore, is a prime example of their affinity for humor–a duck that has been fashioned as a boat, complete with a propeller and rear flag blowing in the wind. The sculpture, on display at the exhibit, remains his favorite to this day.

“That’s the thing with Lalanne, you realize how beautiful they are to live with, and you want more,” Shvo said. “We wanted to share the magic of their work with a new audience.” And what better way than with a hidden wonderland in the heart of New York City.

The Poetry of Sculpture: Les Lalanne is on display at Sotheby’s New York until November 22.

Photography courtesy of Sotheby’s New York

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