October 12, 2014


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Lot 34: Vladimir Kagan

Lot 34: Vladimir Kagan

Partner's desk

Designed 1950


28" x 99" x 84"

This was Vladimir Kagan's original partner's desk from his office on 57th street that he had built for himself at the age of 23. He shared this desk with his partner, Hugo Dreyfuss.

Illustrated: Kagan, Vladimir, The Complete Kagan: A Life of Avant-Garde Design. New York: Pointed Leaf Press, 2004. p 80.

Estimate: $6,000 - $8,000
Price Realized: $7,500
Inventory Id: 16034

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Vladimir Kagan (b. 1927) entered the world of mid-20th century American design like a gust of cool air. His furniture has a startling verve, vivacity, and even sexiness: his pieces are lushly contoured, with sybaritically deep upholstered seats. Chairs feature dramatic parabolic curves and legs that thrust like those of a Bob Fosse dancer.

Kagan's early clients were, like the designer himself, young, cosmopolitan, and progressive. As a custom furniture designer, he did not have to concern himself with the requirements of mass production and mass appeal. With sensibilities more in tune with those of the master Italian designers Carlo Mollino and Gio Ponti than Charles Eames or Florence Knoll, Kagan could afford to be flamboyant.

Kagan was the son of a Russian furniture maker who had immigrated twice: first to Germany (where Kagan was born) and then to the United States, just before the onset of World War II. He entered the design business in 1949, at age 22, and quickly distinguished himself with eye-catching pieces like his long, flowing Serpentine sofa. But finances were tight, and in 1950 Kagan teamed up with Hugo Dreyfuss, a talented textile designer and print maker who had money to invest. Their venture, Kagan-Dreyfuss, opened its office at 125 East 57th Street, a location just off Park Avenue and conveniently located for the kinds of clients who shopped at Tiffany and Bergdorf Goodman.

Kagan designed this desk for himself and his new partner. Sleek and striking, the piece embodies many of the attributes that have come to define the "Kagan" style. Unlike a typical partner's desk, Kagan's is asymmetrical and has a light, dynamic look. He placed the drawers and storage spaces—the weight of the piece—to one side, and devised dual cantilevered work spaces for the designers. The Y-shaped desktop suggests forward motion, an impression that is enhanced by book-matched walnut veneer in alternating lighter and darker bands. The Partner's desk is essentially an advertisement for the young company; it is an emblem of freshness and vigor—and a historical artifact of modern design.

"Vladimir Kagan: Biography." Vladimirkagan.com, n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
Ross, Nathaniel. "VLADIMIR KAGAN: MADE IN THE USA." Interior Design Blog. Haute Living, Chicago, 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
"Vladimir Kagan's Designs of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties Have Become Icons." Interview. Designboom.com, 2010. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
Muther, Christopher. "The Works of Furniture Icon Vladimir Kagan." Lifestyle: House & Home. The Boston Globe, Boston, n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
"Hugo Dreyfuss." Textiles. The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.

Photo caption: The Complete Kagan, Vladimir Kagan: A Lifetime of Avant-Garde Design by Vladimir Kagan © Pointed Leaf Press/Photography Couresty Vladimir Kagan Archive