The son of a cabinet maker, Vladimir Kagan was born in Germany in 1927. After fleeing Nazi Germany, Kagan and his family moved to the United States in 1938, where Kagan remained until his death in 2016. Kagan’s career spanned more than sixty years and he remains one of America’s most celebrated designers, known for combining a sophisticated aesthetic with comfort and a modernistic sensibility.
Initially focusing on painting and sculpture, he later gravitated towards architecture and design. He studied architecture at Columbia University and in 1947 joined his father, Illi Kagan, a master cabinetmaker, in his woodworking shop. Kagan’s early commissions included work for the delegates’ lounge for the first United Nations headquarters in Lake Success, New York in the 1940s. In 1948, he opened his first shop in New York.
Kagan was a designer who was able to move with the times, an attribute sometimes lauded against him by critics. However, designs such as his serpentine sofa have stood the test of time, as fashionable today as they were in the 1950s. A follower of the idea that “form follows function”, Kagan’s design combined seamless design with comfort. Creating pieces for clients as diverse as Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ford, and General Electric, Kagan’s designs can be found in numerous corporate headquarters, private residencies, and public buildings.
Today, connoisseurs and museums avidly collect his designs, and he has been awarded numerous prizes. His work can be seen in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Vitra Design Museum, Die Neue Samlung in Germany, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His work also regularly features in international design shows such as TEFAF New York 2018, Collective Design 2018, and EXPO Chicago 2017.
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- Artist Visionary Award from the Museum of Arts and Design.
- Lifetime Achievement Award from the Design Center of the Americas.
- Enters Design Magazine’s Designer Hall of Fame.
- Product Design Award from the American Society of Interior Designers.
- Lifetime Achievement Award and an Environmental Design Award from the Smithsonian.
Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museums’s National Design Awards Programs.
- Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Kendall College of Art and Design.
- Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Furniture Designers.
- Pinnacle Award from the American Society of Furniture Designers.
- Elected president of the New York chapter of ASID.
- New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology retrospective exhibit: “Three Decades of Design”.
- Museum of Modern Art Good Design Award.
- Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK.
- Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA.
- Cooper Hewitt Museum, New York, USA.
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco, USA.
- Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany.
- Die Neue Sammlung, Germany.
- Baltimore Museum of Fine Arts, Maryland, USA.
- The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, USA.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.