Herb & Dorothy Vogel are well-known in the New York art world. For more than 40 years, they have been ubiquitous on the art scene. Sometimes attending as many as 25 shows a week, they were avid collectors who amassed a modernist treasure trove of more than 3,500 works of art which cluttered their small NYC apartment.
Soon they will be well known to the entire country as they have donated their entire collection to the National Gallery of Art. Their donation, however, was so massive that it overwhelmed the National. The museum could only absorb 1,000 works. So the solution they all came up with for the balance of this material was to give 50 works to a museum in each of the 50 states. A non-profit was formed called 50 x 50 and the crates have been arriving, like an early Christmas present, at museums across the country this Fall.
I found out about these unique artistic philanthropists via a movie that aired this weekend on PBS called "Herb & Dorothy". It's a documentary about how they started collecting art in the mid-1960's on their modest salaries as a postal worked and librarian. They collected mostly modern work by artists like Sol LeWitt and Chuck Close. What's amazing about their story is how their passion for art, not money, inspired and sustained their collecting. The tag line of the movies is "You don't have to be a Rockefeller to collect art".
The Vogel's are true patrons of the arts whose generosity will now be shared with the nation by this unique arrangement. They are an inspiring couple with an amazing story. The movie captures their unique relationship beautifully and is well-worth seeing.