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Manhattan's Modest Art Collectors

Herb and Dorothy Vogel of New York City are not rich, but they have an amazing collection of art. Herb retired after years of sorting mail at the Manhattan Post Office. Dorothy was a librarian. They lived simply and spent all the extra money they could come up with on artworks, for their entire married life, because that is their passion.
In 1992, after Dorothy retired, the Vogels donated their ever-expanding collection to the National Museum of Art, in Washington, because they had run out of space for it. 'We're not ones to throw things out,' says Dorothy, glancing around, 'and we couldn't fit another toothpick in.' According to Chuck Close, a friend of the couple who is represented in their collection, the Vogels had so much art stuffed under their bed that it had risen off the floor.

The museum had no idea of the extent of the Vogels' hoardings. It took three months and five 40ft lorries to pack up and remove more than 2,500 pieces from their tiny apartment: priceless work by Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Richard Long, Julian Schnabel, Jeff Koons, and Richard Tuttle, among others. Only three works remained in situ, because they were site specific or too fragile to move (the National Gallery has since been back to collect one of these, a piece made out of yoghurt).

The art handlers took pride in their project of restoring the Vogels to what anyone else might call normal life: a bare apartment with space for regular furniture. There is a photo of the couple taken after the removal process; they are holding their cats, smiling, posing against a freshly painted white wall. However, this tabula rasa was short lived and the couple soon refilled the apartment. To thank them for their generous bequest, the museum had given them a small annuity, and the Vogels used this, and what was left from their pensions, to buy yet more art, which will also be donated to the National Gallery; they now own more than 4,000 works. They were too addicted to collecting to stop.

Read more about the Vogels and their art collection in an extensive article at The Telegraph. Link -Thanks, Marilyn Terrell!

It's amazing what the Vogel's were able to do with a complete devotion to collecting art. They bought it from artists who were not yet famous so they were able to get many of them for under 50 dollars. They have no fancy cars, penthouse apt. or yachts which they could easily have had if they had sold their monumental collection to the highest bidder. Instead they give it away to the National Gallery because they like the idea that the gallery will not ever sell one of them and that they public will have access to it.

The whole point of their life is shared passion and selflessness in the devotion to a cause; in this case art that they felt had value. They were proven right a thousand times over.

Many people seem to think if they don't like something, it should have no value to anyone else. I would like to go through some people's record collections and point out the "bad taste" of some of their recordings. I would be wrong and the person who loves the music would be right. It has value inasmuch as it speaks to the individual's asthetic sense. One of the artists said that Herbie Vogel's sense was one in which there was no buffer between his eyes and his soul. Most people walk through life blind to anything but the easily understood. Others find value and beauty in the challenging. I hope to always be in the latter group.
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I watched the documentary - it's on Netflix. It's nicely done. The most interesting thing to me is that these people, as far as I can tell, actually fit the definition of hoarders. It's just that instead of hoarding pizza boxes and empty tin cans or cats, they happened to be obsessed with something that others find valuable.
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I saw a documentary about them. Nice that they loved art, but they collected some real crap at times.

One wonders what amazing salaries mail sorters and librarians live on.
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A great documentary about them, 'Herb and Dorothy,' has been available on Netflix (US) instant queue for a while now. They are a really cute couple and I enjoyed it, even though I'm not a particular fan of minimalist art.
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