An object of a metallic bird on a rocking horse.
Bambiloba by Claude Lalanne, 2005.
(Image credit: Alexandre Baillache)

From rhino-shaped desks to cabbage and bird hybrids, the whimsical world of celebrated French sculptors Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne is being explored in a major retrospective at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Claude and her late husband, who worked closely since their first joint exhibition in 1964, have long been regarded as a single entity by the public, despite rarely actually collaborating on a piece of work. Both sought to demystify the sacred art of sculpture and create works with a function, that invite us to touch them, sit on them, lick them and at times, even eat them.

While François-Xavier’s mischievous beasts - like the baboon that doubles as a fireplace and the hippopotamus that opens to become a bathtub - are weighty, fluid forms constructed using moulding and electroplating techniques, Claude’s work tends to be more intricate. Expect delicate mouldings of bodies, apples and cabbages, as well as jewellery, furniture and tableware.

The exhibition is a cohesive, thematic exploration of their work designed by the American architect Peter Marino, a long-time collector and promoter of their work. Beside a château garden filled with their unusual characters, is a residence decorated entirely by the Lalannes. Its themed rooms include The Minotaur, Singeries, Intimate Lalanne and, of course Lalanne and Yves Saint-Laurent - one of their many prestigious collectors.

One of their many prestigious collectors

Oiseau à Bascule by François Xavier Lalanne, 1974

(Image credit: Alexandre Baillache)

Banc Gingko by Claude Lalanne

Banc Gingko by Claude Lalanne, 1996

(Image credit: Alexandre Baillache)

Chaise Hosta or Chaise Feuillage

Chaise Hosta or Chaise Feuillage by Claude Lalanne

(Image credit: Alexandre Baillache)

Choupatte vue extérieure by Claude Lalanne

Choupatte vue extérieure by Claude Lalanne, date 1964.

(Image credit: Alexandre Baillache)

Rhinoceros II (open) by François

Rhinoceros II (open) by François Xavier Lalanne, 1966

(Image credit: Alexandre Baillache)

Maquette des couverts réalisés

Maquette des couverts réalisés for Alexandre Iolas by Claude Lalanne, 1966.

(Image credit: Alexandre Baillache)

Le Cocodoll by François-Xavier Lalanne

Le Cocodoll by François-Xavier Lalanne, 1964.

(Image credit: Alexandre Baillache)

François-Xavier Lalanne.

Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne.

(Image credit: Pierre Boulat/Cosmos)

Boite de sardine by François-Xavier Lalanne

Boite de sardine by François-Xavier Lalanne, 1971

(Image credit: Alexandre Baillache)


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Malaika Byng is an editor, writer and consultant covering everything from architecture, design and ecology to art and craft. She was online editor for Wallpaper* magazine for three years and more recently editor of Crafts magazine, until she decided to go freelance in 2022. Based in London, she now writes for the Financial Times, Metropolis, Kinfolk and The Plant, among others.