1950 Vladimir Kagan's Partners Desk

Value (2014) | $8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction

I bought it from a gentleman on the Internet in 2002. And he said that this was made by Vladimir Kagan, and that it was Vladimir Kagan's personal partners desk, with his partner Dreyfuss. I paid a little over $2,000.

The first thing that we want to do is try to establish whether it is Vladimir Kagan or not. And what I do to determine whether something is actually by Vladimir is to look at a few things that he's well known for. One, he's known for coming up with unusual shapes. And this is a partners desk, but it doesn't look like any partners desk that's ever been built before. He's taken a traditional form, which is usually a big, solid rectangle chunk, and he's reimagined it. And he's taken all of the chunky parts, all of the utilitarian cabinets and drawers, and he's massed it. And then he's done this double boomerang shape that has this beautiful, graceful curve. The second thing I look for is whether it's technically interesting. He was more than a furniture designer; he was kind of an engineer. And to take a desk like this and create these big cantilevered branches... A regular wood desk wouldn't have lasted for 62 years in this condition. There's a reason why the top is straight as an arrow, and that is he's built an aluminum structure underneath the top, and he's hidden it very cleverly. And that structure enables these wonderful long, reaching wooden tops. So there's this fantastic tension between the curving cantilevered top and the square base. The third thing is execution. We know that his furniture was executed at the very highest levels of mid-century modern design. And this piece is exquisitely crafted. So it's got all the three hallmarks...

Oh good.

...of what you want to see in a Vladimir Kagan piece. Now, you can simply call Vladimir Kagan. Unlike other antiques from other eras, modern designers are often still with us.


And I immediately, upon seeing this, emailed a picture to Vladimir, and he called me in five minutes.


And he said, "Wow, this is my original partners desk from my office on 57th Street." So we know now that it absolutely is Vladimir Kagan. He built this for himself in 1950. He was 23 years old. Oh, my gosh. Can you imagine? He had already produced furniture for the UN. He became extremely well known with celebrities in Hollywood. He built furniture for Marilyn Monroe. Like many of the cabinets that Vladimir Kagan made, this piece is made out of walnut, and it has a very interesting top where the walnut veneers are book-matched to give it this wonderful, shimmering pattern. I think that at a well-publicized auction that specializes in this type of thing, this desk would probably bring between $8,000 and $12,000 in the condition that it's in right now.

Oh, man.

If it was restored, I think it could probably bring $20,000 to $30,000.


It could take about $6,000 to have it restored. And if it's done properly, it'll be worth a lot more.

Well, thank you very much.

Appraisal Details

Los Angeles Modern Auctions
Sherman Oaks, CA
Update (2014)
$8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
Appraised value (2012)
$8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
Seattle, WA (August 18, 2012)

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