In an age crazy for standards and guidelines to legitimize and explain life's mysteries, it is rare to hear the words "you just know." Husband and wife art collectors Herb and Dorothy Vogel keep a passionate respect for intuition when it comes to the precious matters of love and art. The pair is renowned for having one of the largest modern art collections in the country. Now the couple continues their love affair with the art world (and each other) with Herb and Dorothy 50X50, a project which gives 50 of their works to a museum in each of the 50 states.
Known and loved for putting the art in heart, the couple married in 1962 and moved into a one-bedroom, rent-controlled apartment in New York City. The pair, a postal clerk and Brooklyn librarian, then amassed one of the country's most astounding minimalist and conceptual art collections. Over the years they acquired 4,782 works, including works by Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Richard Long, Julian Schnabel, Jeff Koons and Richard Tuttle. They became close friends with many of the artists they collected, often avoiding dealers and galleries. Dorothy explained the artists they bought from "treated us like we were artists. I think we shared the same sensibility, feeling and approach to art."
In 2008 filmmaker Megumi Sasaki created an award-winning film documenting the life of the partners-in-collecting. At first Sasaki expressed frustration at the inexpressible, illogical drive which drew the Vogels to a particular artist or work. Sasaki recalled: "They didn't articulate why they like this particular artwork, why did they collect a certain artist... The only thing they said was, 'It's beautiful. I like it.'" Yet their pure intuition is exactly what makes the Vogels such an anomalie. There is no verbal logic or rationale, only a light that shines through Herb's eyes when he sees a work he loves.
In 1992 the Vogels gave much of their collected works to the National Gallery of Art. But even one of the largest museums in the world could not hold the Vogel's collection. They are now finishing their life long project with Herb and Dorothy 50X50, an initiative to donate their art to 50 institutions across the country. A narrative account of the couple's grand giveaway and the pieces involved can be found on their website. You can also further their cause by pledging your support here.
The pair's epic age of collecting has come to an end. Herb is mostly housebound now, and Dorothy, happier when by his side, prefers not to visit galleries or museums alone. Twice a year the two do take the 5 hour taxi ride to visit their National Gallery display in Washington. Their names top the list of benefactors list, and will soon do so in 49 more museums across the country. The couple has become a shining example of American ideals of beauty, generosity and love.
Watch Sasaki talk about her new film Herb and Dorothy 50X50 below.