Barracuda Letter Opener
France, 1998
François-Xavier Lalanne

Crystal, fruitwood, brass
1½ × 10¼ × ½”

François Xavier Lalanne was a French sculptor and installation artist. He often incorporated animal and mythological imagery into unique furniture pieces, such as a gazelle-shaped tables or ram dressers. “I thought that it would be funny to invade that big living room with a flock of sheep,” he once explained. “It is, after all, easier to have a sculpture in an apartment than to have a real sheep. And, it’s even better if you can sit on it.” Born on August 27, 1908 in Agen, France, he studied art at the Académie Julian in Paris. While in the city, he was introduced to many Surrealist artists, such as Man Ray, Max Ernst, and Marcel Duchamp. In 1956, at his first gallery show, Lalanne met an artist of the same last name, Claude Lalanne, whom he later married. After their marriage, they began to collaborate as Les Lalanne, receiving early commissions from the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The first public showing of their work included Rhinocrétaire (1967), a glamorous bronze rhinoceros writing desk. Over the following decades, the couple continued to produce work both separately and together. He died on December 7, 2008 in Ury, France. Carrying on her husband’s legacy, in 2013, Claude installed a piece at a former Getty gas station in Chelsea, New York, which she turned into a pasture populated by François Xavier’s sheep. Today, their works are held in the collections of the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. —Artnet

📷 Wright