While our mission to promote art collecting in an affordable environment is deeply linked with the Recession and the economic realities of the time, there are certain figures in the art world that remind us that accessibility and passion for art have been around long before we came. This week, one such person, Herbert Vogel, left us after 89 years of a passionate devotion to art collecting. To us, Vogel is a predecessor and inspiration; along with his wife Dorothy, he managed to amass one of the most important collections of Minimalist sculptures and works on paper in the country. Dorthy and Herbert created a collection of nearly 5,000 works,all with government salaries
To the rest fo the world, Herbert was a mailman and Dorothy was a librarian. But they hardly identified with theu day jobs; instead Herbert and Dorothy were self-proclaimed art aficionados. In their heyday they would attend an art opening almost every night, familiarizing themselves with the art market fo the 1970s. They saw that mos galleries were solely focusing and selling Pop Art. Yet, the Vogel’s realized there was a large group of artist creating exceptional Minimalist work that was otherwise receiving no attention or support. They devoted themselves to primarily collecting this style of work. This allowed them to both support emerging and relatively unknown artists at prices that would fit their limited budget. They bought their first wo months after their wedding, a small crushed metal sculpture by John Chamberlain, and made one criteria thry would keeo for the rest of the works they purchased—each piece had to be small enough that they could carry it home to their one room apartment in the Upper East Side.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the Vogel collection isnt necesasasrily its impressive size, or even the objects within the collection. Even more so than what they collected, the Vogle’s arre turly invaluable by how they collected. They used their limited means wisely, opting out of spending a lot f of money on a couple signular large pieces, and instead buying smaller, cheapher works and sustaining their support for an artist throughout his or her whole career. Their collection is in turn an unprecedented archive of art being made at the time that was ignored by larger art establishments.
After 40+ years of collecting, the Vogel’s collection out grew their one room apartment int he Upper East Side. Instead of selling their now highly valued artworks, the couple donated most of their pieces to the National Gallery. In addition they created the Vogel 50×50 program, where they would pick one institution from each of the 50 states and donate to it 50 works.
The legacy that the Vogel’s are leaving, both materially in their collection, and in the passion and support they imparted on the art community throughout their whole lives, is immeasurable. At Recession Art, we hope to inspire a similar drive in people who love art within a limited budget. The Vogel’s story shows that art collecting and supporting artist isn’t something that has to be necessarily limited to a wealthy few. Instead, like the Vogels, with a feasible budget and a drive to find emerging artists who are worthy of sustained support, anyone can become a collector.