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  • Literature

    Daniel Abadie, Lalanne(s), Paris, 2008, p. 304

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1965 Claude Lalanne designed her “Grains de café” or “Coffee Beans” side chairs for the office of Olivier de la Baume, director of Maison du Café, a French coffee company. The chairs accompanied a writing desk and an articulated conference table designed for the same commission by husband François-Xavier Lalanne. 
    In 2004 the Centre Pompidou included Lalanne’s “Grains de café” chair in its exhibition Mobilier national 1964-2004: 40 ans de creation.  The single example illustrated in the accompanying catalog was editioned by Zol in the 1970s and produced in chrome-plated steel.
    Madame Lalanne has confirmed that those “Grains de café” chairs hand built by her, as with the present lot, had coffee-colored leather cushions, as opposed to chairs made by Zol, which featured white or black leather.
    Phillips de Pury & Company would like to thank Claude Lalanne for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.
    Tendrils and vines wind across the landscape of Claude Lalanne’s jewelry, furniture, and sculpture. Her output has been a fertile one: monumental bronze apples, copper hosta chairs, branch staircases, aluminum tables made from outsize gingko leaves. Cast fruits and vegetables punctuate her body of work (body is the operative word); for the past half century, Lalanne has grown a tender garden: fennel-hands, apple-mouths, cabbage-rabbits, a surreal collection of flora and fauna whose peculiar juxtapositions accentuate nature’s motley. She’s potted; but her imagination, sweetened by humor, never stumbles into dark corners like that of Salvador Dalí or Max Ernst, her Surrealist forebears.
    In close collaboration with husband François-Xavier, with whom she worked until his death in 2008, Lalanne “…made constant surprise a driving force behind creativity…,” as Daniel Abadie states in his recent monograph (Lalanne(s), Paris, 2008). What is remarkable is that we should be so surprised by the facts of life on display: plants, fruits, vegetables, all that fare of which the Lalannes are so fond. Abadie states flatly, “…the Lalannes are remarkable cooks, simultaneously classic and inventive, primarily for the benefit of themselves and their friends…” The comment, in the context of culinary experimentation in France in the 1960s, is instructive for it recalls that old saw, “food is life”, and hints at a broader working method: the Lalannes combined basic ingredients—steel, brass, bronze—to ingenious effect for their own nourishment and for that of a small coterie of friends and collectors.
    Olivier de la Baume, director of Maison du Café, must have been an intriguing client, for he presided over a food preparation company whose daily work was the packaging of daily roast. In 1965 François-Xavier designed both an articulated conference table and a writing desk for De la Baume’s office. The desk’s hooded oval top, in the shape of a coffee bean, stood on clustered steel legs. To accompany desk and table, Claude hand built a long set of side chairs, the present lot, which she called “Grains de café”, or “Coffee Beans”. The chairs comprise brass and steel frames with coffee-colored leather pads supported on the same clustered legs (the curved elements are reminiscent of the spring steel supports of Poul Kjærholm’s famous “PK9” chair, designed in 1960). Claude shaped her backrests like stylized coffee berries whose oval forms each cup two beans as in nature. Ranged around a room, the chairs percolate with caffeinated buoyancy.



Rare and important set of 12 "Grains de Café" side chairs

ca. 1965
Steel, brass, leather. 
Each: 30 1/2 in. (77.5 cm.) high
Each chair back impressed with “CLAUDE LALANNE” and “84.” Originally designed for Olivier de la Baume (12).

$180,000 - 220,000 


3 June 2009, 11am
New York