Vladimir Kagan - Design New York Wednesday, December 7, 2022 | Phillips

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  • After emigrating from his childhood home of Worms-on-Rhine, Germany, Vladimir Kagan soon found himself in bustling 1930s New York among the skilled craftsmen in his father’s various Manhattan cabinetmaking shops. It was here—in the city and the workshop—where Kagan honed his style. He learned about quality craftsmanship from his father and his workmen and began to develop his own designs that reflected (and sometimes rejected) the architecture and design principles that he studied at Columbia University’s School of Architecture.


    Kagan was particularly inspired by Bauhaus design, elements of which can be seen in the artist’s clean and minimalistic shapes. But more so than the design school’s visual aesthetics, Kagan wished to take after the Bauhaus philosophy that “form follows function.” Kagan also took interest in the human form and created furniture that looked like it was intended to simultaneously emulate and accommodate the human body. Kagan’s sleek, sculptural lines mimicked the curves of the human spine or the body’s “skeletal foundations.”


    Kagan developed many motifs throughout the duration of his career, such as the “Unicorn” base seen in the present lot. Inspired by Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space, the base assumes a sculptural form with clean, sleek lines. The “Unicorn” form was most frequently constructed out of aluminum, making the present table in walnut a rare and fantastic example of Kagan’s wood-working abilities. The “Unicorn” base was one of Kagan’s personal favorite designs.



    Vladimir Kagan, sketches for furniture designs with “Unicorn” bases, 1960s.


    Throughout his career, and up until today, Kagan has celebrity patrons and his designs have become staples for many contemporary interiors. A longtime Kagan collector, fashion designer Tom Ford admired the artist for his ability to produce a clean yet experimental aesthetic, and one whose originality transcended decades. Ford writes, “I’m fascinated that Kagan’s sofas, tables, and chairs manage to be so connected to their time and yet so timeless.” Kagan has been incredibly lucky, then, that his works have remained original and interesting over the years. But perhaps rather than luck, it is Kagan’s active commitment to form and function, combined with a fearless injection of personality and flair, that have kept his pieces so distinctive today.



    • Provenance

      Sollo Rago, Lambertville, New Jersey, "20th Century Modern Weekend," April 21, 2007, lot 464
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Vladimir Kagan, Vladimir Kagan: A Lifetime of Avant-Garde Design, New York, 2015, pp. 13, 122

Property from a Private Manhattan Collection


"Unicorn" side table

circa 1957
Walnut-veneered wood, walnut, brass.
24 1/4 x 31 1/4 x 22 1/8 in. (61.6 x 79.4 x 56.2 cm)
Manufactured by Kagan-Dreyfuss, Inc., New York.

Full Cataloguing

$12,000 - 18,000 

Sold for $15,120

Contact Specialist

Benjamin Green
Associate Specialist

Associate Head of Sale

+1 917 207 9090



New York Auction 7 December 2022