Our client, and more than just a client, for over 20 years, Herb Vogel was an American legend, an ordinary guy on the surface, an art supernova beneath, dead at 89. Herbert and Dorothy, his partner-wife, soul-mate, best friend, fellow connoisseur, are the legendary couple who amassed one of the most extraordinary collections of art in the 20th/21st century while still living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment that also accommodated cats, turtles, uncounted artworks, and cartons of related paperwork that reached to the ceiling. There was a Sol Lewitt drawing painted into the wall over their bathtub which, I believe Dorothy helped to paint, and which she invited me to examine.
In the early 90s it took five full-size moving vans to take the artworks from their apartment to the National Gallery where they were accorded a room of their own following a celebration that included the chief justice of the United States, David Rockefeller, Christo and Jean-Claude, and a very fortunate me.
I’m going to miss Herb. Used to see him and Dorothy at all the gallery openings, exhibition openings, and all events associated with art. Of course Herb slowed down in recent years, but Dorothy continues to lecture and discuss her projects, such as the “50 for 50,” that provided 50 artworks to museums in each of the 50 states.
A good part of the legend of Herb & Dorothy had to do with how they created such a collection of primarily minimalist art on the salaries of a postal worker and a librarian. For those of us who had the pleasure of spending time with them it doesn’t seem so unlikely. They took the time to develop a deep knowledge of art, they explored all the art the contemporary world had to offer, they focused on what art they could afford (much of the time in installments), and they took the time to seek out the artists and learn from them about their art. Of course, to do this the Vogels had to forgo travel and vacations, fancy clothes and food, live in a one-bedroom rent-controlled apartment, and walk everywhere. History will tell us it was worth it. I think Herb knew that already.