If you covet Kagan or are looking for an alternative to a Noguchi coffee table, I’d like to introduce you to the fantastic and undervalued work of Adrian Pearsall.
A coffee table designed by Vladimir Kagan, whether produced in the fifties or sixties, or one of the contemporary reissues, can easily cost upwards of $4,000. The iconic (or unfortunately ubiquitous) Noguchi table is around $1,400 while ridiculously popular knock-offs can be had for a few hundred dollars (not that you would ever consider buying one).
Adrian Pearsall’s work is often simply identified as “in the style of Kagan”. A recent search on 1stdibs.com well illustrates this point. Auction houses similarly misattribute Pearsall’s creations as Kagan’s name and reputation is of much higher profile.
Pearsall’s best pieces were made by Craft Associates, the company he founded in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, 1953. During the first few years, production focused on wrought iron pieces. When they introduced designs in the late 1950's made from walnut consumer response was overwhelmingly positive. Craft Associates grew tremendously during the 1960’s, eventually being sold to the Lane Company in 1969. (Interestingly, Lane produced several examples of brutalist/cubist wood furniture that is often misattributed to Paul Evans) While Pearsall continued to design, the combination of changing aesthetics and shuffling ownership led to the demise of Craft Associates in the 1970’s.
Information and period images of Pearsall's work remains scarce. An interesting trail of comments, several from Pearsall's family and colleagues, from a "Good Question" post from 2006 inspired and informed this write-up. As interest in (and research of) American 20th century design continues to blossom, there will be more verified attributions of Pearsall’s work. In the meantime, look for his Kagan-esque pieces at great prices.
Images: Rago Auctions, Istdibs, Live Auctioneers and Caviar20.com