If Only There Were More Art Collectors Like the Vogels

Cover of "Herb & Dorothy"

Cover of Herb & Dorothy

I’ve you’ve read art magazine for any length of time, you’ve probably encountered an article or two about the art collectors Herb and Dorothy Vogel.  There is even a documentary film about the couple, that you can find and view on Netflix. I wonder why more people don’t follow their example.

Unlike many collectors, the Vogels were not wealthy people. They lived and collected their entire lives on their salaries and their pensions. Mr. Vogel worked nights sorting mail at New York post offices, and his wife was a reference librarian in Brooklyn.

The Vogels did not sell a single piece they owned in nearly 50 years of collecting. “We could have easily become millionaires,” Mr. Vogel told the Associated Press in 1992. He meant by selling their art collection, then estimated to be valued well into the millions. The Vogels amassed more than 5,000 works of art, including drawings, paintings, sculptures and pieces that defied classification. Instead of selling, they gave their collection to the National Gallery of art.

When the Vogels began collecting art in the early 1960 — they were known to many in the art world simply as “Herb and Dorothy”.  The Vogels concentrated largely on collecting conceptual art and minimalism– difficult, edgy work, that stood apart from the better-known abstract expressionist and pop art movements.

Their first purchase was “Crushed Car Piece” by John Chamberlain, who made sculptures from wrecked auto parts. It was not the sort of art that was in strong demand.

The Vogels visited studios and became close friends with many artists, including Sol LeWittRichard Tuttle and the husband-and-wife duo of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. They were often the first collectors to open their wallets to buy from unknown artists.

Herbert Vogel died July 22. 2012 at a nursing home in New York City. He was 89.

3 thoughts on “If Only There Were More Art Collectors Like the Vogels

  1. harrieteestelberman says:

    The video documentary of the Vogels is indeed inspiring. I recommend everyone watch it as it restores your faith that some collectors to buy art because they are sincerely appreciate the artist’s vision and want to support the arts for noble reasons.


    • Harriete, I love that video too. I also like the seeing the very respectful way that artists spoke to the Vogels in that video. Artists should watch it for that alone.


  2. Theirs is an inspirational story, of what a married couple with middle class income can do. They weren’t rich, but they seemed to live richly with collecting art and befriending artists. Extraordinary people.


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