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July 22: Proletarian Art Collectors

July 22, 2013

blog-2012-07-23-18-39-15Herbert Vogel, a postal clerk who, with his wife Dorothy, collected modern art and donated nearly five thousand works to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and to museums and galleries in all fifty states, died at 89 on this date in 2012. Vogel never finished high school; Dorothy held a master’s degree and worked as a librarian with the New York Public Library. They lived in a rent-controlled apartment, had no children, spent Dorothy’s income on their basic expenses, and collected art with Herbert’s salary, which maxed out at $23,000 per year. As collectors, they bought directly from artists and often paid in installments. Their focus was on conceptual and minimalist art, and their collection included works by Roy Lichtenstein, Cindy Sherman, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys, Sol LeWitt, Lorna Simpson, and many other influential artists.

“If it’s possible to be proletarian art collectors, the Vogels may have invented the category.” —Judd Tully,

Read more about Herb and Dorothy Vogel’s art collecting methods in this profile on Mental Floss by Jed Lipinski