This story is also non-numismatic, but it's something many collectors aspire to. Legendary art collector Herbert Vogel has died. He and his wife assembled one of the world's greatest modern art collections on two regular-people salaries.
Herbert Vogel, a retired New York postal worker who, with his wife, Dorothy, created one of the world’s most unlikely — and most significant — collections of modern art, then bequeathed much of it to the National Gallery of Art, died July 22 at a nursing home in New York City. He was 89.
In 1962, when Mr. Vogel and Dorothy Hoffman were married, they came to Washington on their honeymoon and spent several days visiting the National Gallery and other museums. When they returned to New York, they began to buy a few pieces by artists they met, slowly amassing their collection.
Unlike many collectors, the Vogels were not wealthy people. They lived and collected their entire lives on their salaries and their pensions. Mr. Vogel worked nights sorting mail at New York post offices, and his wife was a reference librarian in Brooklyn.
The Vogels never talked about how much they paid for a work of art and did not sell a single piece they owned until the National Gallery acquired much of their collection in 1991. By then, its value was estimated to be well into the millions.
The Vogels visited studios and became close friends with many artists, including Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle and the husband-and-wife duo of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. They were often the first collectors to open their wallets to buy from unknown artists. Over a period of almost 50 years, the Vogels amassed more than 5,000 works of art, including drawings, paintings, sculptures and pieces that defied classification.
“Many millionaire collectors wouldn’t have the nerve to buy the kind of cutting-edge art that the Vogels embraced enthusiastically,” Philadelphia Inquirer art critic Edward J. Sozanski wrote in 1994. The Vogels, Sozanski continued, created “one of the most remarkable American art collections formed in [the 20th] century, one that covers most of the important developments in contemporary art.”
“They did not have deep pockets,” Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art, said in an interview. “They did not collect work by marquee artists at the time, but many of them later became well known.”
There have been a number of Herbert Vogels in the numismatic world, such as John J. Pittman, who assembled one of the greatest collections of U.S. coins on a salary and a second mortgage on his house. Who has a story to share about one of the others?
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Herbert Vogel, unlikely art collector and benefactor of National Gallery, dies at 89
Wayne Homren, Editor
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