Now Open in the Collections Gallery
“Most of us go through the world, never seeing anything. Then you meet somebody like Herb and Dorothy, who have eyes that see.” —Richard Tuttle, artist
He was a postal worker. She was a librarian. Together they amassed one of the most important contemporary art collections in the world.
This exhibit features 50 works of art from the collection of Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. The couple lived frugally in New York, using Dorothy’s income as a librarian in Brooklyn to cover their living expenses and Herb’s income as a night-shift postal clerk to purchase artwork.
The Vogels as Collectors
Their motto was that they purchased artwork that was affordable and could be carried home in a taxi.
They didn't collect to invest but rather chose only the pieces they liked.
In 40 years, the Vogels collected nearly 5,000 works of art. They exhibited and stored (tucked under beds and on top of cabinets) the pieces in their small Manhattan apartment which they shared with their pet cats named after famous artists.
Even though their collection was sought by major museums, the couple astounded the art world by donating everything—worth several million dollars—to the National Gallery of Art. As government workers themselves, they liked the idea of sharing their prized pieces with the American people.
The Vogel’s collection consists primarily of minimalist, post-minimalist, and conceptual art. It has been called one of the most important post-1960’s art collections in the United States.
Explore exhibit resources
Explore the collection
Fifty Works for Fifty States
The Vogel 50x50 site brings together 2,500 contemporary artworks that were distributed throughout the nation as part of The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States gift.
Herb & Dorothy
Filmmaker Megumi Sasaki tells the story of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. The film aired as part of the PBS series, Independent Lens. Many artists are interviewed in the film, including Christo, Chuck Close, and Pat Steir.
Watch clips from the film and go behind-the-scenes on the PBS website.