The pioneers of modern furniture design in America in the mid-20th century all had their moments in the sun: Charles and Ray Eames produced the biomorphic “La Chaise”; George Nelson’s firm created the “Marshmallow” sofa; Edward Wormley had his decadent “Listen to Me” chaise. But no designer of the day offered works with more pep and dynamism than Vladimir Kagan. While others designed with suburban households in mind, Vladimir Kagan aimed to suit the tastes of youthful, sophisticated city-dwellers. With signature designs that feature sleekly curved frames and chairs, tables and cabinets that have dramatic out-thrust legs, Kagan made furniture sexy.
Kagan’s father was a Russian master cabinetmaker who took his family first to Germany (where Vladimir was born) and then to New York in 1938. After studying architecture at Columbia University, Kagan opened a design firm at age 22 and immediately made a splash with his long, low and coiling “Serpentine” sofa. Signature lines such as the “Tri-symmetric” tables and “Contours” chairs soon followed.
Kagan’s clients and collectors have included Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper, Andy Warhol, David Lynch, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and addionally firms such as Gucci and Giorgio Armani. His work is in numerous museum collections, including those of the Victoria & Albert and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Because of its idiosyncrasy, Kagan’s work never leant itself to mass-production. Kagan never signed on with any of the major furniture-making corporations, and examples of his designs are relatively rare which makes them all the more desirable. Decades after their conception, Kagan pieces still command the eye with their freshness, energy, sensuality and wit.
“The stammer was a way of telling the world that he was not like others, a way of expressing his singularity.“