The Gettys and the Rothschilds are famous for their priceless collections of art. But up there with them are the Vogels: Herb, a retired New York mail-sorter, and his wife, Dorothy. Christopher Turner meets the ordinary couple with an extraordinary addiction.
The Telegraph: “Dorothy and Herb Vogel’s one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is crammed with an impressive array of clutter. The main room is full of boxes, crates and piles of books and paper that teeter 5ft high and eclipse the picture window, leaving space for only a narrow corridor to the door. Fifteen turtles look out from a series of tanks on one side of this precarious walkway, noisily knocking their heads and shells against the glass. A large pile of laundry and grocery bags tumbles out of a small kitchen. And alongside all this, on almost every visible inch of wall, tea towels or tartan blankets hang over picture frames like a series of strange domestic shrouds. Behind the protective coverings, and stored in the stacked boxes, are pieces of one of America’s most priceless collections of contemporary art.
The diminutive inhabitants of this crowded space have lived here all their married life, and now rarely leave it. Herb Vogel, who is wearing red Nikes and long shorts the day I meet them, has just turned 86 and stands a hunched 4ft 7in; Dorothy is 13 years younger and 2in taller. She is the dynamo of the pair, loquacious and busy, while he sits back, watchful, in serene contemplation. The Vogels have been collecting voraciously since the early 1960s, and their passion has earned them an unlikely place alongside the Rothschilds, Gettys and Rockefellers in a recent book: James Stourton’s Great Collectors of Our Time. For most of his working life, Herb, the son of a tailor, sorted mail at the central post office in Manhattan; Dorothy, the daughter of a stationer, was a librarian in Brooklyn Heights. They had no children, and chose to live frugally on her salary, so that they could spend his on art.
In 1992, after Dorothy retired, the Vogels donated their ever-expanding collection to the National Museum of Art, in Washington, because they had run out of space for it. ‘We’re not ones to throw things out,’ says Dorothy, glancing around, ‘and we couldn’t fit another toothpick in.’ According to Chuck Close, a friend of the couple who is represented in their collection, the Vogels had so much art stuffed under their bed that it had risen off the floor.”
Read on at The Telegraph
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