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Vladimir Kagan - Contour side chair

The sensual Contour Side Chair combines a smooth and fluid frame with a comfortably reclining seat. This authentic furniture piece retains the original upholstery and is labelled underneath. The 'Contour' series of furniture was first produced in 1953 by Kagan-Dreyfuss - a New York-based company founded by Hugo Dreyfuss and Vladimir Kagan in 1950 - and was a favourite of celebrities including Marilyn Monroe and Gary Cooper.

Born in Germany in 1927, Vladimir Kagan moved to the United States with his family eleven years later. As the son of an accomplished cabinet maker, Vladimir started out at his father's furniture shop in New York in the mid-1940s. From a young age the designer was passionate about the arts, and his father instilled in him the importance of learning to draw properly, examining the way the human body functions. In the evening Kagan studied architecture and design at Columbia University, an education which he credits with teaching him an appreciation for structure, and disciplin in his craft.

In his early years Vladimir Kagan was much influenced by his father's preference of the Bauhaus aesthetic, as can be seen in his break-through furniture for the Delegate's Cocktail Lounges at the first United Nations Headquarters in Lake Success N.Y. in 1947. In the ensuing decades, these rather linear creations would give way to more sculptural models with a predilection for organic forms and sensual curves. Yet he would always adhere to certain elements of the Bauhaus that drive his design, the most important being "Form follows function".

After opening his first furniture store in New York in 1948, Kagan teamed up with Hugo Dreyfuss in 1950 to establish the studio Kagan-Dreyfuss on the fashionable 57th Street in 1950. His clients were luminaries in the world of art, theatre, music and industry, including celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Gary Cooper, as well as companies such as General Electric and Walt Disney. Kagan-Dreyfuss created custom furniture for wealthy clients, but also worked with manufacturers to bring their aesthetic to a broader market. Their partnership ended in 1960, after which Vladimir Kagan continued as a designer in his own right.

The economic downturn in the 1980s dealt a blow to Kagan's factory and showroom, but he continued to design privately for high-profile clients. His work was and is avidly collected by connoisseurs and museums alike. The designer came back in the spotlight when in 1997 Tom Ford decided to incorporate his chic modular Omnibus sofa in 360 Gucci boutiques worldwide (Fig. 3). Kagan's award-winning designs are in the permanent collections of the V&A London the Vitra Design Museum and Die Neue Sammlung in Germany, as well as in the most prominent museums in the United States. Vladimir Kagan never stopped designing and producing furniture until his death on April 7th, 2016.


- KAGAN V., The Complete Kagan. Vladimir Kagan: A Lifetime of Avant-Garde Design, New York 2004.

Object information

Mahogany with original upholstery
Date and place:
United States, manufactured by Kagan-Dreyfuss, 1950s
92 x 86 x 90 cm

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