RISD Museum was the recipient of fifty contemporary works from the celebrated collectors Dorothy and Herb Vogel. Both worked as civil servants throughout their lives so they never had extraordinary means with which to build a collection, but acquired more than 4000 works since their marriage in 1962. Their commitment to minimal and conceptual art is well-known, but their taste was much broader and included work rooted in Abstract Expressionism as well as figurative compositions. Most of the collection was given to the National Gallery of Art. The gift to Rhode Island is part of a broader effort to spread their collection across the United States with fifty works going to one institution in each of the fifty states. To learn more about the project see http://vogel5050.org/.
Since their marriage in 1962, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel have collected more than 4,000 works of art, assembling one of the most significant and unique private collections of contemporary art in the world. Civil servants by profession—she was a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library and he was a postal clerk—they lived on Dorothy’s earnings and used Herbert’s to acquire art. Meeting artists and collecting their work became the center of the couple’s social life. They spent weekends and evenings at gallery openings and studio visits, developing close friendships with artists and patronizing many early in their careers, often providing both financial and moral support. The breadth and depth of the Vogel collection is a testament to these relationships.
When purchasing a work of art, the Vogels had two criteria: it had to be affordable, and it had to fit in their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. In addition to smaller canvases and sculptures, drawings presented the perfect solution, and, in fact, works on paper make up about two-thirds of the Vogel collection. Often considered a more intimate, immediate medium than painting or sculpture, drawings held a particular appeal for the Vogels because they were direct recordings of the artist’s initial idea. The Vogels often selected a work of art for purchase after much examination, conversation, and discussion about artistic process. Thus, working sketches and models, particularly those by sculptors, held a particular appeal. Even if an artist traditionally worked in a larger scale, the Vogels sought smaller-scale works or studies that carried the same impact.
As their collection continued to grow throughout the 1970s and 1980s, outpacing available storage space in their apartment, the Vogels sought a permanent home for their collection, ultimately selecting the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Wishing to also engage in a more expansive philanthropic effort so that people around the country could see and study the artwork they admire, the couple decided to give fifty works of art to one institution in each state, calling their project The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States. The RISD Museum is honored to represent Rhode Island and to share this generous gift.
All works in the exhibition courtesy The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.