Animal Sculptures Bring Whimsy to Staid Park Avenue

Story and photos by Simona Taver

Park Avenue will feature animal sculptures by France's Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne until Nov. 20.
Park Avenue will feature animal sculptures by France’s Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne until Nov. 20.

This fall, Park Avenue will serve as temporary home to a flock of sheep and other creatures — sculptural ones, that is.

The avenue’s latest art installation features work by Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne of France, in their first-ever major U.S. outdoor exhibition.

The exhibit, which opened Sept. 12 and runs until Nov. 20 between 52nd and 57th streets, features fantastical sculptures of animals and plants such as Nouveau Lapin de Victoire, a bronze rabbit holding a cane, and Choupatte (Tres Grand), a cabbage on chicken legs. And Moutons, with a life-sized flock of 12 bronze sheep that now graze on the avenue’s median strip.

“It’s unusual, to be placed in the city like this … it’s a city,” said New Yorker Alvin Stephens, who was interviewed at the site.

The installation is presented by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the Paul Kasmin Gallery, in cooperation with the Fund for Park Avenue Sculpture Committee.

“While it’s serious work, it’s also whimsical and accessible,” says Claire Weiss, curator of Public Art at the Parks Department, who proposed bringing the Lalannes’ work to Park Avenue. “I thought it would be wonderful in the urban space.”

Rabbit SculptureHer personal favorites from the exhibition are Moutons and Singe Avise (Tres Grand), an enormous seated bronze monkey, which happens to have been Francois-Xavier’s last work before his death in 2008.

The Lalannes’ work, which consists largely of animal-themed furniture, has been popular among art collectors since the 1960s.

The couple also has designed furniture for fashion designers Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, among others. The furnishings have appeared in designers’ homes and showrooms.

Though they rarely collaborated, the Lalannes’ work has always shared similar themes — nature, fantasy, whimsy and surrealism.

“I think it’s creative,” said Frank Noto, who works near Park Avenue and lives in New Jersey. He says the installation could have been even more effective if the sculptures had been situated in public areas where people sit: “I think it would be better to allow the people to mix and mingle with the art.”

After Nov. 20, the exhibition will return to the Paul Kasmin Gallery, at 293 Tenth Ave.

Click thumbnails below for full images.

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