Herbert Vogel was in ways a model patron of the arts. A clerk for the United States Postal Service, he was far from wealthy. Yet he and his wife Dorothy, a public librarian, managed to collect over 5,000 works representing some of the most cutting-edge artists of their time. He passed away Sunday, July 22, 2012, at a nursing home in New York.
Taken together, their collection is as expansive as it is artistically challenging. Focusing on minimalism and conceptual art, it includes giants of those genres such as Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd, as well as later names such as Vik Muniz and Takashi Murakami.
In 2008 the High Museum of Art became one of 50 museums in 50 states to receive a gift from the Vogel collection. In all, the couple donated 2,500 works that found homes around the country and included examples by Stephen Antonakos, Michael Goldberg, Alan Saret, and Richard Tuttle, among others.
“Herbert Vogel was an ideal collector whose passion for art and desire to learn, against all odds, resulted in a stellar collection that he and his wife Dorothy chose selflessly to share with the nation, said Michael Rooks, the High Museum’s modern and contemporary curator. “He will always be remembered for the tremendous respect he had for artists and what they do, and for the people in every state with whom he shared his life’s work.
In recent years, the Vogels gained widespread recognition from Herb & Dorothy, a heartfelt documentary retelling the couple’s journey through the New York art world. (I’ve included a video of the trailer above.) The film’s impact is twofold: it manages to elevate contemporary art as an activity of historical significance, while bringing its story down to a human level.