Claude Lalanne - Design New York Tuesday, December 5, 2023 | Phillips

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  • The Whimsical World of Claude Lalanne

    Dung Ngo, Editor-in-chief of AUGUST: A Journal of Travel + Design, explores the artist’s iconic crocodile motif


    In the past fifteen years, the work of François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne has gone from the private, cult domains of Yves Saint Laurent and the Agnellis to something akin to maximum exposure, showing up in Marc Jacobs’ apartment in the pages of Architectural Digest to Tom Ford’s boutiques. From major museum retrospectives to full-scale monographs, Les Lalanne are being introduced to a new and young audience, eager to absorb their idiosyncratic visual language. We are having, as they say, a peak Lalanne moment.


    “For us classification is of absolutely no interest but if forced to, we would say that, yes, we make sculpture.”
    —Claude Lalanne


    Yet, encounters with each Lalanne sculpture — whether it’s one of François-Xavier’s rhinoceros desks or Claude’s apples — cannot but bring a smile to one’s face. Their whimsical, Surrealist-tinged sculptures have both universal appeal and conceptual rigor. Despite the fame relatively late in their lives, the Lalannes continued to live modestly and worked continuously until their passing at their workshop/home/garden in Ury, a little more than an hour south of Paris. The few times I met Claude while working on their monograph, François-Xavier & Claude Lalanne: In the Domain of Dreams, she wore the traditional bleu de travail jacket, even to her own openings.


    Claude Lalanne at work in her studio in Ury, circa 1976.

    Devoted followers of the Lalannes know that François-Xavier (1927-2008) worked exclusively with animal forms, while Claude (1925-2019) dealt with the flora world. This is mostly, but not entirely, true. Some of Claude’s most iconic works incorporated animal parts; her famous Choupatte series, a cabbage that was originally cast from her own garden, sports a pair of chicken legs, while the aforementioned apple has a pair of human lips. Claude’s crocodile series is another body of work where she ventured into the animal kingdom.


    Claude’s works are more realistic in appearance than François-Xavier’s, partly because many of her pieces are originally cast from live specimens. Claude’s first crocodile sculpture was purportedly casts from a small crocodile from the Paris zoo, which was given to her by the zookeeper after it died of natural causes. This pair of Crococurules by Claude is especially unusual in her oeuvre in that they incorporate a classical chair form, rather than imitation of branches or vines, as in her other furniture pieces. Roman in origin, the curule was a seat of honor reserved for magistrates and emperors. By replacing the typical fur with a cast of a crocodile skin, Claude rendered an honorific chair into pure sculpture, in the grandest Surrealist tradition.

    • Provenance

      Ben Brown Fine Arts, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2018

    • Literature

      Dung Ngo, ed., Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne, Art, Work, Life, New York, 2012, n.p.

Property of an International Collector



designed 1992, produced 2012
21 1/2 x 28 1/4 x 16 1/4 in. (54.6 x 71.8 x 41.3 cm)
Number 8B from the edition of 8 plus 4 artist's proofs. Edge of seat impressed B/8 / 8/CL/CLAUDE LALANNE/2012 and Fondeur/FIGINI. .

Full Cataloguing

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $241,300

Contact Specialist

Benjamin Green
Associate Specialist
Associate Head of Sale
+1 917 207 9090


New York Auction 5 December 2023