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Art Anecdotes : Herbert & Dorothy Vogel

Through ART ANECDOTES, Art From Us brings you funny, heart-warming and sometimes heartbreaking stories that shape Artists and their work. Today we look at the story of “Herbert & Dorothy Vogel”.

Art From Us and Divvya Nirula bring to you a curated collection of Art related events, from suspected murder, to love affairs, to grand theft and curious cases of creation through ART ANECDOTES. Join us on this fun-filled ride of exploring and reliving these art-tales.

Herbert & Dorothy Vogel were a middle-class American couple. They had a limited income and led a humble life. Everything about them screamed average and normal. Apart from the extremely impressive collection of contemporary art they amassed.

Herbert & Dorothy Vogel photo credit : The New York Times

Affording Art

Herbert and his wife never earned more than an annual income of $23,000. Herb worked for the post office. Dorothy was a librarian. They lived in a New York apartment measuring 450 square feet, with just one bedroom. Therefore it may be confusing to know that they owned works by LeWitt and Lichtenstein. But simply put, the Vogels were passionate art collectors. They much preferred investing their earnings in art than buying fancy clothes.

Not Amatuer Collectors

When we say the Vogels were art collectors, we mean serious art collectors. They never let their financial status impact the art they bought. In fact, at the end of their life, the Vogels owned a little short of 5,000 works. All of these were displayed in their small home. In cupboards, under the mattress, tightly hung together on walls. Donald Judd, Andy Goldsworthy, Willem de Kooning were a few of their beloved artists. The couple was never formally trained in art. Neither did they follow trends to purchase art that was already doing well on the market. They simply put their money on art they loved. And supported and befriended the artists they admired. In fact the Vogels were the first few supporters of Minimalism and Conceptualism.

In 1990, when the art collection became too large for their apartment, the Vogels donated a large part of it to the National Gallery. Later, they split up the rest of their collection between various other American museums. In 2009, the Vogels finally stopped collecting art. This was when Herb fell ill. Dorothy simply explained their decision saying “It was something we did together, and when Herb was too ill to enjoy it, we stopped”. Herbert Vogel died in 2012.

While the stories of how collectors began their collection always impress and fascinate us, the life of Vogels inspires us.

To read more stories visit Art Anecdotes.

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