edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 10/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
The Complete Kagan
by Vladimir Kagan with a preface by Tom Ford
New York: Pointed Leaf Press, $65
272 pages, 462 illustrations (233 color)
Born in Germany in 1927, Vladimir Kagan escaped the Nazis in 1938. He began working in his father's New York cabinetry shop in 1944, his first pieces of furniture came out only three years later, and he has continued to manufacture his own designs ever since. In addition, he has collaborated with Directional, American Leather, and Pucci. His clients have included General Electric as well as Gary Cooper.
After decades of creativity and a corresponding amount of media coverage, it's surprising that veteran journalist Suzanne Slesin's company is the first to publish a book on him. And The Complete Kagan does, indeed, seem to be complete. Kagan offers reminiscences about his life and career, accompanied by ample illustrations of his products. They run the gamut from the Serpentine sofa, introduced in 1950, to the Plexiglas furniture, circa 1970, and a 1996 leopard-print Marilyn chaise. The parade culminates with the Boa collection for Roche-Bobois, launched in 2004.
Kagan has always been a determined modernist. "My mission as a furniture designer was to interpret my century, not simply to emulate the past," he writes. But he was never one of those modernists bewitched by the "American inclination toward industrialized form, like that of Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson," he adds. Instead, he declares that his sensuous lines derived from an early interest in clay modeling, an observation of nature, and an admiration for Danish designers Finn Juhl and Hans Wegner.
The book closes with Kagan's thoughts about 21st-century design, which he foresees will have to cope with increasingly severe space shortages while accommodating an unprecedented variety of "family" units. "How design adapts to these challenges," Kagan writes, "will define the home of the future."
What They're Reading...
Principal of his namesake firm and a member of the Interior Design Hall of Fame
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
by Ross King
New York: Penguin Group, $15 paperbound
384 pages, 59 illustrations (9 color)
Covering the years 1508 to 1512, this account of the creation of the Sistine Chapel frescoes for Pope Julius II is also, necessarily, a narrative of patronage, physical challenges, political rivalry, personality conflicts, and disagreements about subject matter. "Who could imagine," Diaz-Azcuy asks, "that even Michelangelo had his share of difficult clients?"