The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection has been described as one of the great American collections of conceptual and minimalist art. An exhibition of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s recent acquisition of 50 artworks from this outstanding collection of post-1960 and contemporary artworks, “The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States at MOCA” is up now through March 11, 2013.
The now-famous postal worker, Herb Vogel, and his wife Dorothy, a librarian in Brooklyn, lived modestly in New York as they amassed one of the country’s most significant collections of conceptual and minimal art, begun in the 1960s in their small apartment. The Vogels’ collection grew to include over 4,000 pieces of art by such contemporary luminaries as Vito Acconci, Sol Lewitt, Robert Barry, Lynda Benglis, Robert Mangold, Richard Tuttle, Cindy Sherman, and Carl Andre. The pieces seem to be mainly works on paper of small sizes (smaller than 24″ x 36″). The Vogels and their collection star in a popular documentary film, Herb and Dorothy, winner of several film awards (see video below).
Art critic Peter Frank recalls visiting the Vogels for dinner with Stephanie Barron, now a senior curator at LACMA, sometime in 1973 or 1974, when he and Barron were graduate students at Columbia University, and being amused by their active indoor cats, “the turtles and the Tuttles,” all in a tiny apartment with significant amounts of art. Frank recalls:
Everyone knew of them as ‘little with lots of little stuff.’ I think their physical stature was something that attracted artists to them, and prompted artists to provide them small works. No other collectors known to the NY art world were specializing in small stuff. The Vogels so specialized because of their limited space, not their limited size, but artists thought of it as all of a piece.
The Vogels have proven that a significant art collection can be acquired and built with modest means, good timing, and a good geographic proximity to artists. Frequently they purchased artworks directly with the artist in the studio; they preferred to purchase more than one work by a chosen artist, and sometimes paid for the works in installments over time. Over the years, as their friendships with artists grew, they received numerous gifts of art as well. They enjoyed their lives in the arts.
The Vogels became sophisticated collectors acquiring the difficult, often un-pretty art of the 1960s–conceptual, information art, and minimalism. At MOCA, the gift includes artworks and ephemera by Joan Jonas, Carl Andre, Lynda Benglis, Robert Barry, Richard Francisco, Mark Kostabi, and Richard Tuttle. Two large vitrines, or showcases, in the center of the room contain the smallest artworks and ephemera, making close-up examination easier.
In an example of extraordinary stewardship, the Vogels (Herb died last year) have presented selected artworks to museums throughout the country through their “Fifty Works for Fifty States“ philanthropic partnership with the National Gallery in Washington D.C., thus bequeathing some 2500 artworks to museums throughout the country. MOCA downtown Los Angeles is the California recipient of 50 artworks from Vogel Collection, and these are what is currently on exhibition.
Among the artworks now at home permanently at MOCA are Dog/Decoy, a drawing by Joan Jonas, with expression and witty sets of ears; a small, colorful painting by Mark Kostabi comes home to his native Southern California (the artist lives and works in New York and Rome). Kostabi, Robert Barry and Richard Francisco were among the most heavily collected artists by the Vogels. Francisco’s artwork, A Pipe for Rene (Magritte), is included in the California gift, along with work by the conceptual-feminist, Lynda Benglis, represented by a wonderful gold leaf and glittery wall sculpture, Little Pinch. A Portrait of Herb and Dorothy by Daryl Trivieri is installed near the gallery entry.
The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States at MOCA
February 10-March 11, 2012
MOCA 250 So. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles 90012
Top inage: Daryl Trivieri, A Portrait of Herb and Dorothy, 1988, acrylic on canvas.