SHOWING KAGAN: Five months after the death of Vladimir Kagan, a solo exhibition of his work titled “Annecy,” bows tonight at New York’s Carpenters Workshop Gallery.
The modernistic designer, whose influence reached Tom Ford and Zaha Hadid among others, died at the age of 88 this spring. Nearly two years ago he started working on the concept and drawings with the gallery’s owners Loïc Le Gaillard and Julien Lombrail. “The guy had the biggest sense of life – of enjoying every moment, making the most of every moment. He made you feel very special when you were with him. He had a lot of humor. He liked food, he liked wine, he liked women. He liked all the good things of life.” Le Gaillard said. “Right until the last days of his life, he was so excited like a young kid working on his first project and wanting to make the most of everything. It is a big example on many levels, artistically, of course, but on a human level, Vladimir Kagan was an exceptional person.”
Visitors to Andre Balazs’ Standard Hotels may recognize Kagan’s futuristic furniture. And back in his Gucci days, Tom Ford installed Kagan’s futuristic sofas into Gucci stores. Le Gaillard said, “His body of work was so directional because he was the first designer to combine the extremely sculptural with the comfortable. All the works were incredibly comfortable and when you looked at it from a distance, it was incredibly sculptural. And it’s not always easy to combine both.”
When working together in New York, Paris or at CWG’s atelier outside of the city, Kagan’s legacy was not something he discussed with Le Gaillard. “Vladimir was in the now, not in the tomorrow. He was there to enjoy the working moment of developing a new body of work and being alive in life in the present. This was quite amazing because there was no strategy about anything. It was just about making the most of the present moment,” he said.
Kagan first made his designs of papier-mâché before developing them further, Le Gaillard said. The posthumous exhibition — a sofa made of wood and fabrics, a hanging aluminum console, a coffee table and a desk “that was in the making,” will be on view for the next two months at the Fifth Avenue gallery.
Kagan was also connected to fashion through his late wife Erica Wilson, a needlework expert who had her own TV series and books. (One of their three children is the jewelry designer Jessica Kagan Cushman.) Wilson died in 2011, but her company’s 45-year-old store in Nantucket remains in business. “She was very important and for very long actually she was more known than he was. We met her a few times. She was a vey special person, too.” Le Gaillard said. “Very often you see the quality of people by the quality of people surrounding them. Kagan has only remarkable people around him, which says a lot about him.”