A few weeks ago, I watched a documentary film made by Megumi Sasaki about Dorothy & Herbert Vogel, the New Yorker art collectors and since then I could have not stopped thinking about them and their passion for life and the arts, which was evident by their extensive art collection. At the heart of contemporary economic crises, it is timely to reflect on the life of the Vogels as much as to reflect on the arts, the economy and the community. It is within this insecure economic environment that priorities in life are upset, and many of us lose sight of what is really important to live the “good life.” At the same time, the business of the arts is actually being thwarted by policy which is somehow thwarting artists’ ability to earn from their craft.
Who are the Vogels? Dorothy is a retired librarian and Herbert a retired postal clerk. They married in 1962, they lived in one-bedroom apartment and both took painting classes at New York University. The couple also rented a studio at Union Square but gave up painting in favor of collecting art. Together the Vogels accumulated on of the largest and most important collections of contemporary American art. All of these were purchased on one salary alone —Herbert’s salary. Whereas Dorothy’s salary covered their living expenses. They acquired as many as 4,000 pieces of art works and stored them in their one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Some of the most prevalent pieces they own include the works of Jeff Koons, Sol LeWitt, Mangold, Robert Barry, Edda Renouf, and Richard Turtle. Once the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC discovered the collection, pledged to exhibit about half of the couple’s collection. As a result of these exhibitions, in 1992 the Vogels made history for the Contemporary American art. Today, the couple allows public cultural institutions to tour their collection, but, they refuse to sell any of the works. Over the years, the couple made their purchases by befriending artists, visiting to local galleries and museums. They devoted their lives and lived passionately for the arts and culture. However, in an interview with Judith H. Dobrzynski, Mr. Vogel acknowledge that nowadays it would be hard for others to do what his wife and him accomplished because “Art has become a commodity” and he asserts “the whole [art] market is about money.” Although what they did may not be possible to replicate today, we can still learn from their love of the arts and what they achieved in the 1960s in New York.
The Vogels exhibited courage in their willingness to live modestly in order to pursue their passions, the arts!
Currently, their collection is touring to the various states until 2013. A listing is available at http://vogel5050.org/