The art collector Herbert Vogel, who compiled one of the world’s most important art collections with his wife, Dorothy, died yesterday age age 89. The Vogel’s were an important fixture of the New York art scene in the ’70s and ’80s, collecting mostly Minimal Art.
The couple came from humble backgrounds, he was a postal worker and she a librarian. With their modest salaries they collected works by Sol LeWitt, Robert Mangold, Richard Tuttle, Donald Judd, Christo, and other important artists of that generation. Their first purchase was “Crushed Car Piece” by sculptor John Chamberlain, who made his works from salvaged auto parts. It was not the sort of work that was commercial. The Vogels became close friends with many artists and were often the first collectors to open their wallets to buy from unknown artists. Over a period of almost 50 years, the Vogels amassed more than 5,000 works of art, including drawings, paintings, sculptures and pieces that were groundbreaking. Their collection valued at hundreds of millions of dollars has been left to the National Gallery in Washington and the RISD Museum in Providence Rhode Island. The National Gallery has been instructed to distribute the rest of the collection in 50-item lots to art museums in each of the U.S. states. The project, ‘Fifty Works for Fifty States,’ has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.”
Despite owning art worth millions the Vogels never left their one-bedroom flat on New York’s Upper East Side. “Why should we?” Herbert was known to say when asked; Why don’t you sell a few pieces and move to a larger apartment? Not only did the Vogels not want to part with any of the works they owned; they’d far prefer to spend whatever money they did have buying more. A few years ago, Herbert told a friend that he’d never even had a passport, because he “didn’t see spending money traveling abroad instead of buying art.” The Vogel’s apartment became legendary in the art world for being nearly impossible to navigate, crammed full with art works stacked against walls, filling every free space; and still, they wanted more. They continued to be on the art scene up to last year, visiting galleries and sharing their special knowledge with the world.