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Art Collector Herb Vogel has died…

If you were an artist living in New York in the latter part of the twentieth century and early years of the twenty first, you knew the names Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. They were not rich people. They lived in a one bedroom apartment with their cats and turtles… and thousands of works of art by major American artists piled floor to ceiling.

Herb was a postal worker who loved art. He met his wife, Dorothy, while visiting the National Gallery in Washington, DC in 1962. They built their art collection by purchasing smaller works, often on a monthly payment plan, from younger artists who had not yet gained fame. Their biggest rule for purchase, beside the work being something they took a liking to, was that it would fit in a taxi cab to take it home.

In the early 1990s. after long negotiations, the Vogels left much of their collection to the National Gallery, where they met.

“We wanted to do something for the nation. The National Gallery doesn’t sell works they acquire. They’ll keep the collection together. And they don’t charge admission.”

Herb Vogel

They lived simply, eating at neighborhood diners and Chinese restaurants.When they bought art hey usually paid cash or worked out novel arrangements with artists.

“When they came to the studio, they always came with a wad of cash. You’d always wind up selling something for a fraction of what it was worth.”

– artist Chuck Close

The Vogels were featured on “60 Minutes” and in a 2008 documentary film by Megumi Sasaki called “Herb and Dorothy.” Their names have been carved in the wall at the entrance to the National Gallery’s West Building alongside those of other major benefactors.

Herb died Sunday, at age 89, at a nursing home in New York City. His wife survives.

Trailer from the 2009 film “Herb and Dorothy”

Fantastic program for art lovers and students everywhere started by Google…

I was enjoying myself this morning touring museums on the Google Art Project, a major collection tour of 17 world famous museums including The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Frick Collection, and the Freer Gallery of Art and International Museums such as  The Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid – Spain, The  Museum Kampa, Prague – Czech Republic, The National Gallery, London – England (one of my favorites), The  Palace of Versailles – France,  and The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg – Russia, among others.

"Carafe and Book" by Juan Gris - Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain

The website enables users to discover and view more than 1,000 artworks online in extraordinary detail, with documentation on the works, biographies of artists, interactive 360 degree tours of the galleries and more.

For someone trapped in West Virginia like me, this is a remarkable opportunity to experience the joys of art tourism without leaving my living room.

The site was launched today after 18 months of development in cooperation with the 17 museums. Artwork can be seen in extremely high resolution and viewed in microscopic detail.

Take a look…,… and have a good time.