MEMPHIS, TNM.- The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art has been selected to receive a gift of fifty works of art from New York collectors Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, with the help of the National Gallery of Art, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The gifts are part of a national gifts program entitled The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States. It will distribute 2,500 works from the Vogels' collection of contemporary art throughout the nation, with fifty works going to a selected art institution in each of the fifty states.
“The Brooks is honored to be part of this prestigious program and delighted with the selection of artworks that will be entering the permanent collection,” said Chief Curator Marina Pacini. “The gift is especially meaningful as few of the artists included, such as Lynda Benglis and Richard Tuttle, are represented in the Brooks collection. We are deeply grateful to the Vogels, the National Gallery of Art, the NEA, and the IMLS for this generous gift.”
The best-known aspects of the Vogel Collection are minimal and conceptual art, but these donations also explore numerous directions of the post-minimalist period, including works of a figurative and expressionist nature. Primarily a collection of drawings, the 2,500 works the Vogels are donating also include paintings, sculptures, photographs, and prints by more than 170 contemporary artists, mainly working in the United States. Gifts to the first ten institutions were announced in the spring of 2008. The complete list of museums is available here.
The National Endowment for the Arts is funding the publication of a book, The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, scheduled for release in November 2008. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is providing funds for the disbursal of the art (under the supervision of the National Gallery of Art) to the fifty institutions and for the development of a Web site to serve as both an information center and exhibition area for this project.
The Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art has worked closely with Dorothy and Herbert Vogel since 1991, when it acquired a portion of their collection, through partial purchase and gift from the Vogels. Since the couple formed their association with the National Gallery, the Vogels’ collection has continued to grow to include some 4,000 works, far more than can appropriately be placed in a single institution.
The Project Book
The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, supported and published by the NEA, in association with the National Gallery of Art, features introductory remarks by Earl A. Powell III, Dana Gioia, chairman of the NEA, and Anne-Imelda M. Radice, director of the IMLS; a note by Dorothy Vogel; and an essay by curator Ruth Fine on the history of the Vogel Collection, the Vogels’ relationship with the National Gallery, and the development of the national gifts program.
"The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support this ambitious project. The generosity shown by the Vogels in their eagerness to share their marvelous collection with the entire nation is truly inspiring. Part of the NEA’s mission is to ensure greater access to the arts. What better way to promote that mission than through Fifty Works for Fifty States?" said chairman Gioia.
The volume also lists the artists in the individual institutional donations and reproduces four works from each museum’s gift, including at least one by each artist represented. Catalogue information for illustrated works has been compiled by Mary Lee Corlett, research associate in the Gallery’s department of special projects in modern art. The book is available for use as an exhibition catalogue at each of the participating venues and as a way for institutions to make the public aware of the artists represented.
The Project Web Site
The IMLS is funding the creation of a Web site, www.vogel50x50.org, which will serve as both an information center and exhibition area for this project. The interactive Web destination, which is being developed under the aegis of the National Gallery of Art, will enable each museum to create a section about its own Vogel Collection donation. This Web site will eventually allow museums with a limited Web staff to reach the widest audience possible, and museums with strong Web programs to create features that link to the Vogel project Web site. “With this generous gift, the Vogels are sharing their passion for art and artists that represent a significant period of art-making in the United States—the last fifty years. IMLS is proud to help bring this extraordinary collection to people in every state and create a Web-based learning resource for all Americans,” said Anne-Imelda M. Radice, director of the IMLS.
The Vogels and Their Collection
The Vogel Collection has been characterized as unique among collections of contemporary art, both for the character and breadth of the objects and for the individuals who created it. Herbert Vogel (b. 1922), spent most of his working life as an employee of the United States Postal Service, and Dorothy Vogel (b. 1935), was a reference librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. Setting their collecting priorities above those of personal comfort, the couple used Dorothy’s salary to cover the expenses of daily life and devoted Herbert’s salary to the acquisition of contemporary art. With the exception of the collection formed by their friend, artist Sol LeWitt, no other known private collection of similar work in Europe or America rivals the range, complexity, and quality of the art the Vogels acquired.
As the first collectors to buy work by many artists who were then unknown to a wide audience, the Vogels offered encouragement at the start of the careers of several figures who went on to achieve considerable acclaim. Owing to these artists’ continuing close relationship with the collectors, many works of art collected by the Vogels were gifts, marking special occasions—such as Dorothy and Herbert’s birthdays and wedding anniversary—and often personally inscribed. In this sense the Vogels’ collection is a keen reflection of their friendships with artists.
Artists’ use of drawing as a primary medium has expanded during the years in which the Vogel Collection has been formed, and interest in drawings on the part of contemporary collectors has expanded as well. However, when the Vogels began collecting in the early 1960s, their focus on drawing was an unusual one, suggesting another aspect of their prescience. Many drawings in the collection represent an artist’s initial form of an idea, and others act as plans to be followed by a collaborator in the making of a work of art. This emphasis on drawings adds to the unique and intimate nature of the Vogel Collection, making their gifts an important educational tool for museums. Another educational focus of the Vogels since 1980 has been their ongoing donation of artist-related records to the Archives of American Art, Washington, DC.
“We hope this will be a truly national program, and that it will make the work of the many artists we admire familiar to a wider audience. We also hope our gifts will enable museums throughout the country to represent a significant range of contemporary art,” said Dorothy Vogel on behalf of the couple. Inspired by the Kress Foundation’s placement of old master paintings throughout the United States in the middle of the last century, the Vogels hope that their project will, as a parallel effort, enhance knowledge of the art of our time.