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Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Art Collection

Dorothy and Herbert Vogel have assembled an art collection of over 4,000 pieces in more than 45 years of collecting. In April 2008 the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection announced a donation to 50 museums, a gift called Fifty Works for Fifty States. One museum of each of the 50 states will receive 50 pieces of art from their collection.

Most of the pieces fall into the categories of minimalist and conceptual art. It’s an extensive collection so many types of art and styles of expression are represented, including figurative works.The mediums represented include sculpture, painting, drawing, collage and photography.

50 Works at PAFA

At the Pennsylvania Museum of the Fine Arts (PAFA), one of the museums which has already received its gift, the works were on display from June 26 to September 12, 2010. The 50 works entrusted there are by 31 artists, including such well-known figures in modern art as Edda Renouf, Robert Barry, Lucio Pozzi and Nam June Paik.

Richard Tuttle is also represented in the PaFA collection. In fact, in Herbert & Dorothy, a 2008 film about the art-collecting couple by Megumi Sasaki that played during the exhibit, viewers see a work created by Tuttle during a visitto their apartment. He made it by using a pencil to trace around some wires in the apartment.

Early in their collecting, the Vogels decided on the following criteria for collecting: the piece had to be affordable, it had to be something that they could carry and take on a subway and fit into their apartment, and it had to be something they liked. Many of their acquired early pieces were drawings on paper, but their collecting evolved into an emphasis primarily on minimalist and conceptual art.

Their Backgrounds

Dorothy Vogel is a native of Elmira, New York and Herbert Vogel is a native of New York. They married in 1962 and honeymooned in 1962 in Washington, D. C., where they visited the National Gallery of Art (NGA) for the first time. To celebrate their marriage they bought a sculpture by John Chamberlain. On the occasion of their engagement in 1961 they had purchased a ceramic vase by Pablo Picasso.

In order to purchase art, the Vogels strategy was to use Dorothy’s salary as a reference library at the Brooklyn Public Library to pay the bills and Herbert’s salary as a U. S. postal employee to buy art. The Vogels have no children. She has an undergraduate degree from Syracuse University. Her master’s degree in library science is from the University of Denver. Herbert did not graduate from high school. Dorothy (born in 1935) retired in 1990 and Herbert (born in 1923) retired in 1979. Even after retirement, they used his pension to buy art and hers to live on.

Vogels Are Devoted Students Of Art

They have been interested in art for a long time. Even in the mid-1950s before marriage, Herbert studied art history at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. They came to collecting after having tried creating art themselves. In the early sixties they took weekly painting and drawing classes and rented a New York studio. They traveled to Europe in 1963 1965 and 1970, visiting museums.

In late 1963 they moved to the New York apartment where their art collection boomed. In 1965 they saw an exhibit of Sol LeWitt sculptures in New York. After the exhibit ended they went to LeWitt’s studio and bought a sculpture. Around this time they decided not to focus on being artists but to concentrate on being collectors. Of how they complement each other as collectors, Dorothy told Ruth Fine in a NGA Art Talk podcast that he “had the art history” and she had “the fresh eyes.”

Vogels Make Donation to National Gallery of Art

Since the late 1980s they have known National Gallery of Art (NGA) curators, who were impressed with their collection. By the early 1990s they had decided to donate over 2,000 pieces of art to the NGA.

As the film shows, their little apartment was crammed with art. It took no fewer than five super-size moving vans to empty it of art. Art was under the bed and just about everywhere in the apartment. But they and the curators knew that only part of their collection could find a home there. And by the time Herbert & Dorothy was released in 2008, they had 4,782 pieces of art. The Fifty Works for Fifty States idea was the solution for housing their works. By 2018 all the works will be distributed to the museums. Learn which museums share in the donation.