In the middle of the last century, the Kress Foundation placed Old Master paintings in museums across the country. In 2009, the Vogels decided to share their enormous holdings of contemporary art in similar fashion. Beginning in 1991, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., acquired more than 1,000 pieces from the Vogels’ collection through a combination of gift and purchase. The gallery then worked closely with the Vogels, with support from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, to distribute 2,500 artworks to 50 selected institutions — one in each state. The Weatherspoon was the very fortunate North Carolina recipient of their generosity with a gift that includes drawings, collages and paintings by 24 individual artists.
Collectively, the works offer a window into the Vogels’ lifelong collecting activity, demonstrating their wide interests and personal involvement with numerous artists. A number of works have personal inscriptions from the artists on the occasion of the Vogels’ birthdays or as thanks for their great support.
The Vogels’ story is extraordinary and has been captured beautifully in the film, “Herb and Dorothy,” by Megumi Sasaki. Herbert Vogel worked as a United States Postal Service employee for most of his life, and Dorothy Vogel was a reference librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. They began collecting soon after they were married, when they purchased a small sculpture by John Chamberlain in 1962 — and, thus ensued a lifelong passion. Their appetite for looking at and learning about art was voracious, and they spent most evenings and Saturdays visiting artists’ studios and galleries. Dorothy’s salary was allocated to pay the bills, while Herb’s funded their collecting habit. With a limited budget, and a one-bedroom apartment to house their collection, they gravitated toward drawings and smaller works, but not without the occasional piece too large to fit comfortably in the living room.
The film “Herb and Dorothy, will be screened on Sunday, Feb. 27, and again on Thursday, March 3. The Institute of Museum and Library Services, Washington, D.C., has created a web site also to present the Vogels’ story: http://vogel5050.org.
Image at top: Lucio Pozzi, “James Dances,” 1994 (detail)