Blog / Proletarian Art Collectors

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By J Caldwell

In late July of this year, noted collector Herbert “Herb” Vogel passed away. He and his wife Dorothy were loyal civil servants living in New York City; he worked as as postman and she as a librarian. Over half a century they pooled their modest incomes to cover cost of living and travel while also, remarkably, taking the remainder to amass a nearly 5000-piece collection of art, which they later began to give away to various institutions in the early ’90s.

In the early ’60s, Herb purchased a wall piece by Giuseppi Napoli, one of only a few that he acquired before the couple wed, and soon thereafter the couple celebrated their engagement by purchasing one of Picasso’s ceramic vases. Their first purchase as “The Vogels” was Untitled, a sculpture by John Chamberlain. While it might seem like the couple sought to build a substantial and renowned collection, their intention was rather to find works that they wanted to live with.

The story of this ordinary couple living within modest means who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history was told in Megumi Sasaki’s documentary Herb & Dorothy, which featured at the Nasher Museum in 2009. Notable collectors are a theme at the Nasher Museum this fall, with Jason Rubell’s Time Capsule and Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore. We currently have one of John Chamberlain’s sculptures, Williamson Turn, on view in the great hall.

Herb will be dearly missed and our thoughts are with Dorothy.

IMAGE: John Chamberlain, Williamson Turn, 1974. Painted and chromium-plated steel. Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas. Photo by J Caldwell.

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