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Friday, December 12, 2008

In Memoriam

Elegance and whimsy may not go hand-in-hand, but French sculptor Francois-Xavier Lalanne, who died this week at the age of 81, bridged the gap—so much so that his work was collected by fashion and design luminaries including Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford, Reed Krakoff and Peter Marino.

Lalanne and his wife Claude worked together to make animal sculptures that often doubled as functional objects. With their surreal yet modern aesthetic, the Lalannes created, for example, a cast-iron baboon whose chest opened to reveal a stove, a coffee table composed of two gilded antelopes holding up a glass surface and a bronze hippopotamus that serves as a bar.

But the most famous works were a series of life-size fluffy sheep whose only purpose is to graze safely in the chicest of living rooms. As Krakoff once said: "When I first encountered one of their sheep, in a book of European interiors, I didn't know what to make of them. There was something whimsical about them that struck me as so charming, but at the same time, they had this weight of serious sculpture."

Born in 1927, Lalanne was a creative light that will shine on.

—Pia Catton





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