Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection

We have covered this story before; however, this couple deserves our attention and respect one more time.

1."Fifty Works for Fifty States: The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection
Friday, January 22–Sunday, May 9, 2010

Charles Clough (American, born 1951). Cruor, 1993. Enamel on Masonite, 24 x 32 inches (61 x 81.3 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Albright-Knox Art Gallery Buffalo, New York THE DOROTHY AND HERBERT VOGEL COLLECTION: FIFTY WORKS FOR FIFTY STATES, a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art, with generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2009. © 1993 Charles Clough.

The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel story is not your typical love story. Civil servants by day and voracious collectors by night and weekend, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel built a world-class collection through modest means. Herbert Vogel (born 1922), who spent most of his working life as a postman, and Dorothy Vogel (born 1935), who was a reference librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, gave up vacations and creature comforts by devoting the entirety of Herbert’s salary to collecting and acquiring works by contemporary artists. While their wallets were not well endowed, they made up for it in a passion for each other and for art. Committed to discovering new work by up and coming artists, the Vogels have amassed a collection since their marriage in 1962 that now includes more than 4,000 objects by some of the most remarkable and renowned artists of our time.

In 1992, the Vogels formed a partnership with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., placing in their custody more than 1,100 works of art as gifts or promised gifts. As they continued to acquire works of art and the Vogels’ collection grew, it became unreasonable to gift the collection in its entirety to any singular institution, leading to the development of the Fifty Works for Fifty States project. This prescient endeavor, which has received essential support from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, allowed the Vogels to place 2,500 works of art, including drawings, paintings, sculptures, prints, and photographs by 177 artists, in the collections of institutions throughout the United States. Using a select statute of personal criteria, the Vogels have selected venues that they have already built
relationships with through exhibitions and affiliations, or, as in the case of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in cities that were of significance to them. (Dorothy Vogel was born in Elmira, New York and attended college at the University at Buffalo.) Through steadfast vision, the Vogels’ munificence brings works by contemporary artists to smaller arts organizations that otherwise may not have had the means to acquire these artists, and builds a legacy that will withstand generations.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is honored to become a chapter in the story of the Vogels, whose generosity brings to the Permanent Collection a bevy of artists that are either entering the collection for the first time or will enhance existing holdings. This magnanimous gift includes works by Richard Artschwager, Robert Barry, Lynda Benglis, Charles Clough, Koki Doktori, R. M. Fischer, Richard Francisco, Don Hazlitt, Gene Highstein, Bill Jensen, Tobi Kahn, Steve Keister, Alain Kirlli, Mark Kostabi, Wendy Lehman, Michael Lucero, Joseph Nechvatal, Richard Nonas, Larry Poons, Lucio Pozzi, Edda Renouf, Judy Rifka, Barbara Schwartz, Darryl Trivieri, and Richard Tuttle. This exhibition is curated and organized at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery by Associate Curator Holly E. Hughes."

To learn more about the Vogels and this project, please visit

2. Remembering Herbert Vogel, The Postman Who Amassed One of America's Greatest Art Collections

Herb and Dorothy Vogel inside their Manhattan apartment
by Judd Tully
Published: July 24, 2012
Lynda Benglis's "Sparkle Knot," 1972 / National Gallery of Art, Washington, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection
"New York art collector Herbert Vogel, a long retired postal worker, died on July 22 at the age of 89, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy of cutting-edge Minimal and Conceptual art, as well as his partner in collecting, Dorothy Vogel, who survives him.
The story of the Vogels is better reading than some fiction. They accomplished the stunning feat of amassing some 4,000 art works by artists ranging from John Chamberlain, Christo, and Chuck Close to Lynda Benglis, Sol Lewitt, and Richard Tuttle, all of it financed by the meager salaries and pensions of the two diminutive art lovers. The Vogels rank at the very top of world-class collectors, alongside the immensely wealthy Count Giuseppe Panza de Biumo of Varese, Italy, whose trove of masterworks from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the late Joseph Hirshhorn, the uranium magnate whose eponymous museum on the grassy mall of Washington, D.C. contains some 6,000 artworks.
Herbert Vogel, a Harlem-born high school dropout and World War II veteran who was better known as Herb to his legion of artist friends, never made much more than $20,000 a year for sorting mail on the night shift for the U.S. Postal Service. Yet that tiny income, along with Dorothy’s wages as a Brooklyn reference librarian, enabled the civil servant duo to live modestly in Manhattan while amassing a staggering trove of mostly small-scaled works on paper that ultimately engulfed their one-bedroom, turtle- and cat-friendly, rent-controlled apartment on the Upper East Side. The couple’s spartan philosophy about collecting was fairly simple, ruled by their ability to transport the work of art from an artist's studio via subway or taxi to their apartment uptown. Unlike the current modus
operandi of the ultra-rich art collector who relies on art consultants, auction houses, and global blue chip galleries to fashion their collection, the Vogels were decidedly old school, explorers of studios who charmed their way into the lives of then mostly under-known artists who would later become world-class stars, thanks in part to the couple’s visionary early support and unabashed enthusiasm.
For example, according to a yellowed Wall Street Journal front page story by Meg Cox about the couple in 1986, Herb Vogel acquired the only work sold from Sol Lewitt’s first solo in the city at the long shuttered Daniels Gallery in 1965, described as a “tall, gold T-shaped structure.” LeWitt’s friend Robert Mangold helped deliver the piece to the couple’s apartment. LeWitt, who became life-long friends with the Vogels, reportedly urged them to join him in acquiring the work of his friends. It was advice well taken. “Some people didn’t want to sell to him because he didn’t want to pay what they asked,” said LeWitt of Vogel, as quoted in the article, “I let Herb pay whatever he wanted, and he didn’t really abuse that.”

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