Avant-Garde Art Collection to Be Split Among All 50 States

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 11, 2008

Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, collectors of minimal and conceptual art from the last 45 years, have decided to distribute 2,500 works from their collection throughout the 50 states.

The national gift program, called "The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States," will be chiefly coordinated by the National Gallery of Art, which announces the initiative today.

The Vogels, New Yorkers of modest means and avant-garde tastes, assembled about 4,000 works, representing 170 artists. The couple sought advice about their holdings from the National Gallery in the early 1990s, principally because they went to the gallery on their honeymoon in 1961. The museum holds 832 works from the Vogel collection and has been promised 268 others.

In their apartment gallery, the Vogels have works by Sol LeWitt, Pat Steir, Dan Graham, Richard Tuttle, Wil Barnet, Lynda Benglis, Robert Barry, Emile Renouf, Robert Mangold, Sylvia Plimack Mangold and Christo and Jeanne-Claude. "It really touches upon most of the currents happening and starting in the 1960s and 1970s," said Ruth Fine, the gallery's curator of special projects in modern art. The holdings include drawings, paintings and sculpture.

Because no one museum could display more than a small part of the collection, the works will eventually be given to galleries in all 50 states. Beginning this spring, works from the Vogel collection -- mostly works on paper -- will go to 10 museums in 10 states, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey.

Dorothy Vogel, 72, agreed she wanted the work to have the national exposure and didn't see the plan as breaking up her legacy.

"It is still the Vogel collection, now in 50 places and I don't see it as broken up," she said in a telephone interview.

Vogel, a former reference librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, and her husband, now 85 and retired from the Postal Service, started collecting by putting aside Herbert Vogel's salary for art purchases. They had an eye for what was new and in 1962 purchased a car-crash sculpture by John Chamberlain. "It was quite an exciting experience, going to the openings, meeting the artists, having people come over. We did it because we loved it," said Dorothy Vogel.

The ambitious project will also be the subject of a book, published by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Pat Steir, the award-winning abstract artist, met the Vogels in the early 1970s at Sol LeWitt's studio, and she remembers an encouragement and excitement that didn't change over the years. "At that point they were collecting drawings. They bought one of mine on a payment plan, $10 a month for many months and always on time," said Steir. "Herbert Vogel is a great appreciator and a born collector. For them it became much more than a hobby, it is a profession. It is extraordinary they could see so well."

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company