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Victorian Bird Cage

October 12th, 2007

Daniel Pontius

I love the Orientalism of this Victorian bird cage. Picasso said that we are fascinated with Nature because of the textures seen there and others have said we are fascinated by nature because of an on going desire to tame and control it. Perhaps this narrative is why I’ve lately been fascinated with the bird cages. Or, perhaps because I grew up with Budgees–Shakespeare, who died an early death when a much larger object collided with him and then Martin Luther who lived to a very old bird age and died a natural death–and wished that Shakespeare and Martin would have had a more pleasing cage than their brass store bought prefab house equivalent.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to go to
Vladimir Kagan‘s NY apartment. (We were purchasing one of his chairs for a client and she wanted to sit in it. Since it wasn’t on the floor, our sales rep offered an appointment to see the chair at the Kagan apartment way up on Park Avenue up-uptown).

It was a fantastic day–think opening chapter of The Bell Jar “a queer sultry summer” which I couldn’t help thinking of being Uptown towards the East River on a July day. As it happened, we pulled up to the building in a large stretch limo. Our client, my boss, and myself–we didn’t normally travel in such style–the limo had interior accent lighting that looked like elogated glow sticks. It was convenient to have a driver waiting when you are doing a intense day of shopping, although nicer if the driver left the car running in the 90 degree heat as we were in a frenzy to try and complete the purchases for the client’s home.

We checked in with security; we walked through an immense courtyard and up a rather small elevator. We were welcomed by a housekeeper. A short grey haired dapper man appeared who took us to look at the chair. Kagan had an aviary along the living room near the windows. It was empty but it seemed that it could have housed thirty birds. The aviary was disquieting. Kagan we were told was in Switzerland. The apartment itself reminded me of the seemingly vast apartment of Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, which is across town at the Dakota.

Kagan’s apartment was packed full of Op-Art, Chippendalesque furniture, art deco or perhaps early Wiener Werkst√§tte, and Kagan’s own designs and then of course his wife Erica Wilson’s needlework. I adore needlework and was in love immediately as it added dashes of brightness. The client sat in the chair and we eventually ordered it. Perhaps we were inspired by Kagan’s own which was covered in needlework that we had our clients chair done in an embroidered leaf pattern.

Read a nice interview with Kagan and Wilson in Dwell here. Note Kagan’s green velvet sofa on which the pair sits–it has Lucite legs. It is no longer in production, but can still be found like this one.

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