Herb Vogel passed away July 22, 2012 at the age of 89; three weeks shy of his 90th birthday. Herb and his wife Dorothy began collecting art in New York during the early 60’s while working in the public sector. They funded their collection by their saleries and later from their pensions – Herb was a postal worker and Dorothy a librarian. The couple were the subject of a 2008 documentary entitled Herb & Dorothy and are best known for donating 5000 pieces of their minimalist and conceptual art collection to the National Gallery in 1991. Artists in their collection included Chuck Close, Donald Judd, Robert Mangold, Dan Flavin, Joseph Beuys, Brice Marden, Nam June Paik, Edda Renouf, Edward Ruscha, Robert Ryman, Julian Schnabel, Robert Smithson, Carl Andre, Lynda Benglis, John Baldessari and Jeff Koons. “We wanted to do something for the nation,” Mr. Vogel told the Houston Chronicle in 1992. He stated “The National Gallery doesn’t sell works they acquire. They’ll keep the collection together. And they don’t charge admission.” In 2008, the Vogels, with the National Gallery of Art, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, developed a project called Vogel 50 x 50, through which the couple distributed a single work each to select art institutions in each of the 50 US states.
In today’s world where art is traded as a commodity, Herb and Dorothy are a reminder of a simpler time when people sacrificed to live within their means and collected art because they liked it, not to turn a profit or influence the market. “We could have easily become millionaires,” Mr. Vogel told the Associated Press in 1992. “We could have sold things and lived in Nice and still had some left over. But we weren’t concerned about that aspect.”
In retrospect, Herb and Dorothy are a unique and noteworthy example of how two people who followed their passion were able to give back to the culture that gave them joy, and never lost sight of what truly made them happy.