Vladimir Kagan Biographical Information

Vladimir Kagan is one of the most recognized and enduring designers of modern furniture and is widely regarded as “the grandfather of modern furniture design”.  He started designing in 1947 and by the early Fifties, his innovative sculptured furniture created a new look in American furniture. The European Magazine says: “Vladimir Kagan is one of the most important furniture designers of the 20th century. Furniture designed by him in the forties, fifties and sixties have become icons of Modernity and an obligatory reference to every designer. He is the creative grandfather of a whole new generation of designers.”

Born in Worms on the Rhine, Germany in 1927, Vladimir Kagan came to the United States in 1938. His earliest focus was on painting and sculpture but in his formative years he became exceedingly attracted to architecture and design. He studied Architecture at Columbia University and in 1947 joined his father, Illi Kagan, a master cabinetmaker, to work in his woodworking shop and learn furniture making from the ground up.

Early commissions included the Delegate’s Cocktail Lounges for the first United Nations Headquarters in Lake Success N.Y. (1947-48). In 1949 he opened his first shop in New York on East 65th Street and moved to fashionable 57th Street in 1950. His clients were luminaries in the world of art, theater, music and industry. They included Marily Monroe, Xavier Cougat,Lilly Pons, and Gary Cooper; Sherman Fairchild of Fairchild Aviation, Walt Disney, General Electric, Monsanto, General Motors, Prudential Insurance, and the Government of Venezuela.

Connoisseurs and museums avidly collect his designs. Kagan’s furniture is in the private collections of Barbara Jacobson of the Museum of Modern Art, film director David Lynch, actor Dan Akroyd, the Spice Girls and David Bowie, as well as the late artists Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, Frank Sinatra and Violinist Isaac Stern. Fashion designers Tom Ford, Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani, Joseph, Elie Tahari, Roberto Cavalli, and Anna Fendi are all Kagan collectors. His prize-winning designs have been published in books and magazines internationally.  Pieces of his furniture are part of the permanent collections in museums across the world including: the V&A Museum in London; the Vitra Design Museum and Die Neue Samlung in Germany; the Brooklyn Museum; the Cooper Hewitt Museum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Pasadena Art Institute; Baltimore Museum of Fine Arts; Chicago’s Athenaeum; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kagan’s work and design innovation have been recognized and acclaimed throughout his long career.  In 1980, New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology honored Mr. Kagan with a thirty-year retrospective exhibit: Vladimir Kagan: “Three Decades of Design.” In 2000, he was honored with The Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Society of Furniture Designers. In 2001, he received the Pinnacle Award from the American Society of Furniture Designers for one of his Sofas for the American Leather Company. Also In 2001, Vladimir Kagan received an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Kendall College of Art and Design bestowed by the Board of Trustees of Ferris State University of Grand Rapids Michigan. In 2002, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Brooklyn Museum Art.  In 2004, Vladimir Kagan was awarded the: Lifetime Achievement Award and Environmental Design Award by the  Cooper Hewitt Museum. In 2009, he was inducted into Design Magazine’s  Designer Hall of Fame and in January, 2010, Kagan received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Design Center of the Americas.

He has served as chairman of the Advisory Commission of the School of Art and Design in New York and been a member on numerous committees for the Architectural League of New York. He has served on the faculty of New York’s Parsons School of Design and has lectured extensively on the history of modern design in furniture and architecture. His autobiography, “The Complete Kagan”, was published in 2004.

Vladimir Kagan is married to Erica Wilson, internationally known needlework designer, author and Television personality. They have three children and live between their homes in New York and Nantucket.

Kagan’s involvement with the Morelli House Project

Kagan became involved with the Las Vegas Junior League’s project by a twist of fate, The day after the Junior League dropped into the World Market Center to inquire about leads for mid century modern furnishings for the Morelli House, Mr. Kagan was to be the guest speaker at the World Market Center’s First Friday Designer Series.  Mr. Dave Palmer and Mr. Victor Pedraz of the World Market Center invited the Junior League members to attend the lecture event and made sure they had an opportunity to explain their project to Mr. Kagan.  Once the project was explained and Mr. Kagan agreed to go over to the Morelli House to see it, Mr. Kagan enthusiastically offered to take on the project as lead interior designer showcasing his selected furnishings. Due to Mr. Kagan’s efforts, the Morelli House’s  primary areas were completely furnished with authentic mid century Vladimir Kagan furniture selected and placed by the master himself.  Mr. Kagan solicited donated furnishings from his manufacturers, American Leather and Wieman Preview and also donated pieces from his own historical collection. The Vladimir Kagan furniture on permanent display at the Morelli House includes two Serpentine Sofas, a Nautilus Sofa, a coffee table, an Omnibus Dining Room Set and a Trisemetric stool.

For more information go to: www.vladimirkagan.com


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