Herbert Vogel was born in New York City in 1922 and grew up in Harlem. His father was a tailor, his mother a homemaker. Until he retired in 1979, Herb clerked for the US Postal Service, while taking classes in art history at the New York University (NYU) Institute of Fine Arts from the mid-1950s. Nights and weekends when he was not working at the postal office, he painted at home.
Before his marriage to Dorothy, Herb often visited the early havens of the abstract expressionist artists including Greenwich Village's Cedar Tavern and the Artist's Club, associating closely with Franz Kline and David Smith. In 1960 he met Dorothy, a librarian for the Brooklyn Public Library system with bachelor's and master's degrees in library science from Syracuse University and the University of Denver respectively (she retired in 1990). They married one year later and spent their honeymoon in Washington DC, where Herb introduced Dorothy to the National Gallery of Art and other museums.
The Vogels' first joint purchase of art was a small crashed car sculpture by John Chamberlain in 1962. They became close with many of the artists in their collection, and their friendships with artists Sol LeWitt and Dan Graham, then an art dealer, stimulated them to acquire minimal and conceptual art, which greatly influenced their collection. The Vogels expanded across the spectrum to such artists as Robert Mangold, Donald Judd, Christo, Lynda Benglis, Richard Tuttle, John Cage, Sylvia Mangold, Richard Artschwager, Joel Shapiro, Carl Andre, and dozens of others. Eventually, they gave up painting and immersed themselves in collecting—paying the bills on Dorothy's salary and buying art with Herb's.
In 1991, former National Gallery of Art curator Jack Cowart initiated the preservation of the collection and its transfer from New York to the NGA. Herb, as a former federal employee, and Dorothy held a special place in their hearts for the National Gallery, and transferred 2,000 pieces from their collection in 1992, making front page news.
In April 2008, the Vogels, with the help of the National Gallery of Art, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, launched a national gift program entitled The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States. The project of unprecedented scope distributes 2,500 works from their collection throughout the nation, with fifty works going to a selected art institution in each of the fifty states.» Back