The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a gift to the Columbia Museum of Art
of 50 works of art from the New York collectors, opens on Friday, October 23 (a free admission day thanks to BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina)and runs through January 17. The 50 works donated to the Columbia Museum of Art are minimal and conceptual art, some of which also explore numerous directions of the post-minimalist period, including works of a figurative and expressionist nature.
Following the lead of Samuel H. Kress, who donated his collection of old master paintings to the nation in the 1950s and 1960s - including gifts to the Columbia Museum of Art - the Vogels have instituted a national gift program entitled The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States. With the help of a National Gallery of Art curator, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Vogels have given a legacy to the country of 2,500 works of art to 50 museums. One museum was selected from each state to receive 50 works from their collection. The Columbia Museum of Art was selected to receive this important gift for the state of South Carolina because of its commitment to collecting and displaying art of national and international importance.
Herbert and Dorothy Vogel began collecting contemporary art in the 1960s and by 1996 were listed by ARTnews magazine as one of the world's top 200 collectors - all on the salary of a librarian and a postal worker. After frequenting art galleries nearly every Saturday, their collection eventually comprised more than 3600 works of art including paintings, sculpture and works on paper, highlighting minimalist and conceptual artists working in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Now age 85 and 73, they have become the example of savvy art collectors and a beacon to those art lovers of modest means. The collection has been the focus of numerous books, articles and exhibitions - most notably at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., along with national television coverage.
The 50 works by 28 artists gifted to the Columbia Museum of Art include 10 paintings, 6 sculptures and 34 works on paper by Lynda Benglis, Zigi Ben-Haim, Robert Berry, Charles Clough, Peggy Cyphers, Richard Francisco, William L. Haney, Don Hazlitt, Stewart Hitch, Martin Johnson, Steven Karr, Steve Keister, Alain Kirili, Cheryl Laemme, Jill Levine, Michael Lucero, Joseph Nechvatal, Raymond Parker, Betty Parsons, Lucio Pozzi, Edda Renouf, Judy Rifka, Robert Stanley, Hap Tivey, Daryl Trivieri, Richard Tuttle, Thornton Willis and Betty Woodman.The five works on paper by Richard Tuttle are considered to be among the seminal works of contemporary American art. Minimalist artists sought to strip art down to its most fundamental elements while conceptual artists focused on the ideas present in the creation of a work instead of the material product. Until now, these two important movements in the development of American art were underrepresented in the Museum's 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 spent most of his working life as an employee of the United States Postal Service, and Dorothy Vogel 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 relationships 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 were 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.
Columbia Museum of Art's executive director Karen Brosius says, "We are honored to be the South Carolina recipient of the Vogels' generous donation, and we are privileged to be in the company of other major museums in the country. These 50 works significantly broaden our holdings and further our commitment to diversifying and growing our modern and contemporary art collection. As a recipient of the Kress Foundation's major art donation in the 1950s and 1960s, the Museum is delighted to know the Vogels' national legacy was spurred by the Foundation's gift."