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Exhibition at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts includes 50 contemporary works donated by Dorothy and Herbert Vogel
Little Canarsie,1981,Thornton Willis (American, born 1936), oil on canvas. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States. Photo: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
RICHMOND, VA.- The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ summer exhibition includes 50 contemporary works donated by Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. A librarian and a postal clerk respectively, the fabled art collectors amassed nearly 5,000 works while living in a one-bedroom New York apartment. Primarily a collection of drawings, the Vogels’ collection also includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, and prints by more than 170 contemporary artists, mainly working in the United States.

In 2008, in a unique partnership with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Vogels distributed 2,500 works across the country, giving 50 works to one art museum in each of the 50 states. Opened July 27, The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States showcases the 50 works VMFA received. These objects complement VMFA’s Modern & Contemporary collection and are being displayed for the first time.

“As a diverse and rich body of work, the Vogel’s generous gift to Virginia attests to their passion for seeking the challenging, new art of the their time, as well as their commitment to sharing it with a broad public.” VMFA’s Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Sarah Eckhardt, said.

The collection explores numerous directions of the post-minimalist period, including works of a figurative and expressionist nature. More than any particular movement, however, the works in the gift to the VMFA represent the Vogels’ close friendships with individual artists, such as Richard Tuttle, Charles Clough, Pat Steir, Martin Johnson, Jill Levine, David Novros, Lucio Pozzi and Thornton Willis.

Herbert Vogel (1922-2012), spent most of his working life as an employee of the United States Postal Service, and Dorothy Vogel, 78, 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.

Often the first collectors to buy work by artists who were then unknown to a wide audience, the Vogels offered encouragement at the start of the careers of artists who went on to achieve considerable acclaim. 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. 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.



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