Les Lalanne’s sculptures inhabit otherwordly landscapes

Whimsical works
Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne’s whimsical works are on show at Ben Brown Fine Arts, installed in a series of dioramas designed by Manfredi della Gherardesca.
(Image credit: Tom Carter)

Walking into Ben Brown Fine Arts has been quite the experience of late. We were greeted by two air hostesses clad in 1970s-style uniforms, who led us into a colour-coordinated Narnia-style set; quite a world away from the clean, white-washed cube the Mayfair space usually exists as.

The showcase was of Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne’s fantastical sculptures, hosted in a weird yet wonderful set created by Italian interior designer Manfredi della Gherardesca. Those who know Les Lalanne’s works are already aware of their chimerical qualities. Claude creates outlandish flora and fauna – oversized apples, cauliflowers and gold leaf chairs; while the late François-Xavier realised gold rabbits, gorillas and life-like sheep. But this is certainly the first time the avant garde sculptures have been featured against such a surreal backdrop.

Monet gardens

Claude’s natural work set in the Monet gardens at Giverny

(Image credit: Tom Carter)

‘Think 1970s world travel; airports and travel agents meets dioramas in the natural history museum,’ Gherardesca explains to Wallpaper* of the set-up. We realised then that the pair of retro stewardesses were acting out a metaphorical flight, heading to the enchanting travel destination images in the different backdrops: the Amazon rainforest, a Middle Eastern desert and the Scottish Highlands, all of which give Les Lalanne’s sculptural archive a new dialogue.

The effect is cinematic. In the most imposing and effective corner of the space, a herd of François-Xavier’s Moutons de Laine sheep appear to march towards the viewer from a glowing red desert, while the opposite wall shows a giant rabbit – Nouveau Lapin De Victoire (Grand) – popping out of blue snow-capped mountains.

Mouflon de Pauline

François-Xavier’s ‘Mouflon de Pauline’ set against a desert

(Image credit: Tom Carter)

Elsewhere, Gherardesca honed in on the Mother Nature quality of Claude’s work; the iconic gold apples and leafy tables are situated in the Amazon, complete with water features offsetting the scorching green forest on the walls. ‘The rural quality of the Lalannes’ work marries itself very naturally to these exotic landscapes,’ states Gherardesca.

Before departing Narnia, we made sure to find out what Claude thought of the new sets for her and her husband’s works. ‘It enhances the sculpture and makes the whole set feel even more alive,’ says the 92-year-old, who even sat up onto one of François-Xavier’s sheep for some photographs on the opening evening, further honing the infectious whimsical aura of the room. 

Flora and fauna sculptures

Claude’s natural flora and fauna sculptures are set against an Amazonian backdrop, complete with water features

(Image credit: Tom Carter)

Nouveau Lapin De Victoire

Left, Nouveau Lapin De Victoire (Grand), 2010, set against snow-capped mountains. Right, Babouin, 1984

(Image credit: Tom Carter)

Moutons de Laine

Moutons de Laine, 1965/74, features against a Middle Eastern desert backdrop

(Image credit: Tom Carter)


‘Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne’ is on view until 26 January 2017. For more information, visit the Ben Brown Fine Arts website


Ben Brown Fine Arts
12 Brook’s Mews
London W1K 4DG


Sujata Burman is a writer and editor based in London, specialising in design and culture. She was Digital Design Editor at Wallpaper* before moving to her current role of Head of Content at London Design Festival and London Design Biennale where she is expanding the content offering of the showcases. Over the past decade, Sujata has written for global design and culture publications, and has been a speaker, moderator and judge for institutions and brands including RIBA, D&AD, Design Museum and Design Miami/. In 2019, she co-authored her first book, An Opinionated Guide to London Architecture, published by Hoxton Mini Press, which was driven by her aim to make the fields of design and architecture accessible to wider audiences.