The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Modern Art Collection

Recently the Bowdoin College Museum of Art received a gift of 320 artworks from the collection of Dorothy and Herbert Vogel—a couple who earned under $50,000 a year but managed to amass a vast collection of art. The contemporary and modern pieces by artists such as abstract impressionist painter Michael Goldberg, sculptor Michael Lucero, and post-minimalist artist Richard Tuttle are just a sampling of the seventy artists represented in the collection.

Over a period of 50 years (1960-2012) Dorothy and Herbert Vogel amassed a premier private collection of over 5,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art. When they started collecting in 1960 Herb, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 89, was a postal clerk earning $23,000 a year. Dorothy was a librarian with the Brooklyn Public Library. They lived on Dorothy’s salary using Herb’s salary and pension to purchase art.

Home was and still is for Dorothy a rent-subsidized one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan which they filled with 4,782 pieces of art, storing the works in closets, under their bed, piled in boxes and on every inch of wall space. Whenever more room for art was needed they moved out pieces of furniture. When interested in a piece their only rule was if they couldn’t carry it home or get it on public transportation they didn’t buy it. Herb and Dorothy got in on the ground floor where art was concerned. They purchased what they liked directly from artists before many of them became “known” in the art world; avant-garde painter Christo, conceptual artist Sol LeWitt, photographer Lucio Pozzi, and pop artists Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.

In 1992, wanting a permanent home for their collection and to share it with the public, the Vogels donated everything they had at that time to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., an institution they chose because it has a “no sell” policy for donated art. Working with the National Gallery in 2008, they created the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, which gave fifty pieces of art to fifty institutions/museums in all the states across America. In total 2,500 works were donated. Dorothy and Herbert Vogel made sure that each one of their works of art were placed in beautiful repositories where everyone can enjoy them. The 320 pieces given to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art is the last of the Vogel Collection to be distributed.

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