Akron Art Museum to Receive Major Donation of Vogel Works
For Release: October 2008
Akron, Ohio, October 14, 2008 — The Akron Art Museum has been selected to receive a gift of fifty works of art from New York collectors Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, with the help of the National Gallery of Art, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The gifts are part of a national gifts program entitled The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States. It will distribute 2,500 works from the Vogels' collection of contemporary art throughout the nation, with fifty works going to a selected art institution in each of the fifty states. Artists whose work is being donated to Akron include American artists Lynda Benglis (b. 1941); Jene Highstein (b. 1942); Robert Mangold (b. 1937); Nam Jun Paik (1932-2006); Richard Tuttle (b. 1941), Raymond Parker (1922-1990), and works by 20 other artists.
Museum Director & CEO Mitchell Kahan hailed the gift, saying, “The national leadership shown by the Vogels is truly inspiring. Not since Samuel Kress distributed his collection of old master paintings around the country several generations ago have collectors made such a gift to the entire nation. Recognizing that art collecting is concentrated in a few major cities and is unequally available across our 50 states, the Vogels decided to spread the joy.“
“The Vogels don’t have lots of money,” said Akron Art Museum Director of Curatorial Affairs Barbara Tannenbaum, ”but they have a deep passion for the art of their time and a belief in the importance of art. On their combined salaries as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service and a librarian, the couple managed to amass a provocative, intelligent and significant art collection. And now, they are generously giving it to all of us.”
The best-known aspects of the Vogel collection are minimal and conceptual art, but these donations also explore numerous directions of the post-minimalist period, including works of a figurative and expressionist nature. Primarily a collection of drawings, the 2,500 works the Vogels are donating also include paintings, sculptures, photographs and prints by more than 170 contemporary artists, mainly working in the United States. Gifts to the first ten institutions were announced in the spring of 2008 (the complete list of museums is available at www.nga.gov/press/2008/vogel50x50_a.shtm).
The National Endowment for the Arts is funding the publication of a book, The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, scheduled for release in November 2008. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is providing funds for the disbursal of the art (under the supervision of the National Gallery of Art) to the fifty institutions and for the development of a Web site to serve as both an information center and exhibition area for this project.
The Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art has worked closely with Dorothy and Herbert Vogel since 1991, when it acquired a portion of their collection through partial purchase and gifts from the Vogels. Since the couple formed their association with the National Gallery, the Vogels’ collection has continued to grow to include some 4,000 works, far more than can appropriately be placed in a single institution.
To date, the Vogels have donated 832 works to the Gallery and another 268 are promised gifts. “The generosity of Dorothy and Herb has enhanced our collection of contemporary art immeasurably,” said Earl A. Powell III, Gallery director. “Of five wonderful wall drawings by Sol LeWitt donated by them, two are currently on view in the East Building, along with two works each by Lynda Benglis and Richard Tuttle.”
Works from the collection have appeared in numerous exhibitions throughout the world, including two major exhibitions organized by the National Gallery that were selected solely from their collection. In 1994, From Minimal to Conceptual Art: Works from the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection was on view at the National Gallery of Art. It was also seen in 1997 at the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery in Austin, and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon. In 1998, the exhibition traveled abroad to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel, and the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art inTurku, Finland. Following its 2002 presentation in Washington D.C., Christo and Jeanne-Claude in the Vogel Collection was on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.
The Project Book
The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, supported and published by the NEA, in association with the National Gallery of Art, features introductory remarks by Earl A. Powell III, Dana Gioia, chairman of the NEA, and Anne-Imelda M. Radice, director of the IMLS. It also includes a note by Dorothy Vogel and an essay by curator Ruth Fine on the history of the Vogel Collection, the Vogels’ relationship with the National Gallery and the development of the national gifts program.
"The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support this ambitious project,” said Gioia. “The generosity shown by the Vogels in their eagerness to share their marvelous collection with the entire nation is truly inspiring. Part of the NEA’s mission is to ensure greater access to the arts. What better way to promote that mission than through Fifty Works for Fifty States?"
The volume also lists the artists in the individual institutional donations and reproduces four works from each museum’s gift, including at least one by each artist represented. Catalogue information for illustrated works has been compiled by Mary Lee Corlett, research associate in the Gallery’s department of special projects in modern art. The book is available for use as an exhibition catalogue at each of the participating venues and as a way for institutions to make the public aware of the artists represented.
The Project Web Site
The IMLS is funding the creation of a Web site, www.vogel50x50.org, which will serve as both an information center and exhibition area for this project. The interactive Web destination, which is being developed under the aegis of the National Gallery of Art, will enable each museum to create a section about its own Vogel Collection donation. This Web site will eventually allow museums with limited Web staff to reach the widest audience possible, and museums with strong Web programs to create features that link to the Vogel project Web site.
“With this generous gift, the Vogels are sharing their passion for art and artists that represent a significant period of art-making in the United States—the last fifty years,” said Radice. “IMLS is proud to help bring this extraordinary collection to people in every state and create a Web-based learning resource for all Americans.”
The Vogels and Their Collection
The Vogel Collection has been characterized as unique among collections of contemporary art, both for the character and breadth of the objects and for the individuals who created it. Herbert Vogel (b. 1922), spent most of his working life as an employee of the United States Postal Service, and Dorothy Vogel (b. 1935), was a reference librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. Setting their collecting priorities above those of personal comfort, the couple used Dorothy’s salary to cover the expenses of daily life and devoted Herbert’s salary to the acquisition of contemporary art. With the exception of the collection formed by their friend, artist Sol LeWitt, no other known private collection of similar work in Europe or America rivals the range, complexity and quality of the art the Vogels acquired.
As the first collectors to buy work by many artists who were then unknown to a wide audience, the Vogels offered encouragement at the start of the careers of several figures who went on to achieve considerable acclaim. Owing to these artists’ continuing close relationship with the collectors, many works of art collected by the Vogels were gifts, marking special occasions—such as Dorothy and Herbert’s birthdays and wedding anniversary—and often personally inscribed. In this sense the Vogels’ collection is a keen reflection of their friendships with artists.
Artists’ use of drawing as a primary medium has expanded during the years in which the Vogel Collection has been formed, and interest in drawings on the part of contemporary collectors has expanded as well. However, when the Vogels began collecting in the early 1960s, their focus on drawing was an unusual one, suggesting another aspect of their prescience. Many drawings in the collection represent an artist’s initial form of an idea, and others act as plans to be followed by a collaborator in the making of a work of art. This emphasis on drawings adds to the unique and intimate nature of the Vogel Collection, making their gifts an important educational tool for museums. Another educational focus of the Vogels since 1980 has been their ongoing donation of artist-related records to the Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C.
“We hope this will be a truly national program, and that it will make the work of the many artists we admire familiar to a wider audience,” said Dorothy Vogel on behalf of the couple. “We also hope our gifts will enable museums throughout the country to represent a significant range of contemporary art.”
Inspired by the Kress Foundation’s placement of old master paintings throughout the United States in the middle of the last century, the Vogels hope that their project will, as a parallel effort, enhance knowledge of the art of our time.