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Obituary: French Artist François-Xavier Lalanne

François-Xavier Lalanne, the French artist known for surrealistic sculptures that often doubled as furniture, died Sunday evening at his home in Ury. He was 81.

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François-Xavier Lalanne

François-Xavier Lalanne

Photo By Zack Seckler

PARIS — François-Xavier Lalanne, the French artist known for surrealistic sculptures that often doubled as furniture, died Sunday evening at his home in Ury, just outside of Paris, after a long illness, according to gallerist Jean-Gabriel Mitterrand. He was 81.

With his wife Claude, also an artist, François-Xavier enjoyed great success with fashion designers, with commissions from the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Hubert de Givenchy and Karl Lagerfeld. Marc Jacobs, John Galliano and François Pinault collected works by the Lalannes, too.

“François-Xavier blended classicism with invention,” said Mitterrand, who was scheduled Monday evening to host a signing of a new book dedicated to the Lalannes’ work.

“He was someone with references beyond our era,” continued Mitterrand. “His work had something of the Renaissance and ancient Greece and Rome. He admired Nicolas Poussin and Bach. There was a surrealistic touch in the way he transformed sculpture into everyday objects.”

Though often considered a team, Claude and François-Xavier seldom worked together, although their work bore a similar aesthetic.

François-Xavier’s work mostly took animal form, such as a bronze rhinoceros desk and a hippopotamus bar.

For the late Saint Laurent, François-Xavier created a bar with an egglike dome in which bottles were concealed. His wife, whose work was more organic, created a series of 15 bronze mirrors festooned with vines that were hung in the music room of Saint Laurent’s home on the Left Bank.

The Lalannes even collaborated with Saint Laurent for a bronze breastplate that served as the bodice of a gown in 1969.

Recently, the Lalannes’ work has found its way into fashion boutiques from Chanel to Dior. A Claude Lalanne gold crocodile reception desk greets shoppers at Tom Ford’s Madison Avenue flagship.

Decorator Peter Marino, himself an avid collector, used François-Xavier’s sculptures in the arrangement of Chanel’s fine jewelry shops, including a piece inspired by a stag in Coco Chanel’s apartment. “He was able to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary,” he said.

Reed Krakoff, executive creative director of Coach, is another avid collector. Two years ago, he published a book devoted to the Lalannes’ oeuvre.

Mitterrand said funeral services were planned in Paris for Thursday.
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