Friday, 10 October 2014




Known as 'proletariat art collectors', Herb and Dorothy Vogel amassed an incredible collection of conceptual and minimalist art on a very small budget. The couple's incredible eye for emerging artists allowed them form a collection of 4,782 works, which they managed to fit inside their tiny one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. The couple married in 1962 and began collecting art soon after. Their love of art and collecting contemporary works continued throughout their marriage, until Herb's death in 2012.

Herb and Dorothy Vogel with two of their cats

Unlike many collectors of prominent contemporary artists, the couple had only modest salaries to fund their love of artwork. Herb worked as a mail sorter for the United States Postal Service and Dorothy worked as a librarian. The couple found ways to get deals on work by emerging artists (many of whom later became their friends). Their collection includes work by notable minimalist artists such as Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle, and Lawrence Weiner. With the limited budget the couple had, they choose to not purchase works as an investment, but selected pieces based on what they both liked, what was small enough to take home in a taxi and to display in their apartment.

Their life and collection was captured in the 2008 documentary "Herb and Dorothy". The documentary recounts the Vogel's courtship, life together, and their art collection. In addition to being passionate art connoisseurs, they are also ADORABLE. I dare anyone to watch this documentary without getting a little teary-eyed. The couple never had children, but housed a lovely menagerie of animals which make appearances throughout the documentary (also adorable). Despite the large amount of work that is crammed inside their apartment, each piece resonates a different story. One particularly notable story is about a collage piece they received by the artist Christo in exchange for taking care of his cat.

Herb and Dorothy with their art collection, inside their Manhattan apartment

As the couple aged, it became harder to take care of their collection. In 1992, their entire collection was donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Herb and Dorothy wanted to share their incredible collection and love of art with the public. As the National Gallery has free admission and does not sell donated works, their collection would stay together and could be accessible to a large audience.

"Herb and Dorothy" has been made available online through TVO.

Please watch and enjoy the wonderful story this couple has to share.

1 comment:

  1. Kathryn, you had me at ADORABLE! This is indeed a wonderful documentary which tackles the idea of collecting from a very different perspective as typically collectors are wealthy and their collection is a proof of their financial power. This collection has a slightly different history which is almost a personal statement about those who did the collecting. Great to see a story about it on Musings!