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Collecting Contemporary Art 


Collecting Contemporary Art


What makes an art collector? For some, the term itself creates an image of a wealthy man or woman, quaffing expensive wine, staring at his or her treasures. The reality is so far from this, as art collectors aren’t bound by any of these preconceptions – and in some cases, income.

Not all art collecting is about attaining the most rare or most sought after pieces. While some collectors purchase art to invest, some buy art simply for joy. It is personal taste that will, at least initially, govern your choice of pieces. Of course, if you’re buying art simply to make money irrelevant of the image or sculpture, then you’re probably not making the most of your interest.

If you are finding yourself pulled into the world of art, and art collecting, there are different ways to get into it. Because art collecting can be an expensive interest, most of us will be unable to dive in and buy an original piece by a famous artists. It’s perfectly normal to buy a few postcards, or a book, or maybe art cards by different artists that you like.

How do you find out about different contemporary artists?

This is the part that seems tricky, at least to start with. The best place to start is a local gallery. If you’re new to the world of contemporary art, gallery assistants and managers will be happy to discuss current and popular artists. Don’t worry about buying initially. You might see something straight away that calls out to you, or perhaps not. There’s nothing wrong with having a wander without buying first.

One of the things that’s worth bearing in mind is that you can approach art in the same way as you would books, music or films. You know the music you like, you may have a favourite author or film genre. It’s okay to not like something because it’s not to your taste.

There are different ways to buy art, and the costs can vary from format to artists. Let’s take a look at these formats in more detail.

Signed, limited edition prints 

When becoming more interested in contemporary art, signed and limited editions are usually the place to start. These can be prints on paper, as well as same size replicas on board or canvas. Some limited edition art can also be hand-embellished to deliver the same textures that you would find on the original piece. Aside from an original painting, this is the closest to getting something that feels somehow closer to the artist’s original vision. 


Original paintings


As you become more confident, and perhaps build a collection, it’s normal that at some point you might want to own a piece of original art. It can feel a big step – certainly an expensive one if you are looking for an original by a notable contemporary artist. With this in mind, it’s worth discussing this with a gallery, who can advise on up-and-coming artists who have original work for sale. If the artist becomes popular and can launch a run of prints based on an original, that original can dramatically increase in value.




Affordable Art Collecting: The Herb and Dorothy Vogel Collection



Herbert Vogel, a retired New York postal worker, and his wife, Dorothy, created one of the world’s most unlikely — and most significant — collections of modern art























Herbert Vogel, a retired New York postal worker, and his wife, Dorothy, created one of the world’s most unlikely — and most significant — collections of modern art, then bequeathed much of it to the National Gallery of Art.  



“Most of us go through the world, never seeing anything. Then you meet somebody like Herb and Dorothy, who have eyes that see.” — Richard Tuttle, Artist


Herb and Dorothy Vogel, were a seemingly ordinary couple who filled their humble one-bedroom New York apartment with more than 4,000 works of art over a 45-year period. He was a postal worker. She was a librarian. Together they amassed one of the most important contemporary art collections in the world.


Despite their modest income, the two began acquiring work that was undiscovered or unappreciated in the early 1960s, primarily Minimalist and Conceptual art by such visionaries as Robert and Sylvia Mangold, Donald Judd, Richard Tuttle, Sol LeWitt, Christo, Lynda Benglis and many other artists who are featured in the film.From the earliest days of their marriage, the Vogels delighted in art. While working the midnight shift at the post office, Herb studied by day at the Institute of Fine Arts. Dorothy soon followed suit and began taking classes in painting and drawing. But ultimately, Dorothy confesses, they were “wannabe artists” and quickly gave up their own ambitions when they realized the joys of collecting.


The work was mostly non-decorative, evoking descriptors like “daring” and “rigorous.” In their collecting, Herb and Dorothy adhered to strict guidelines—they would live on Dorothy’s salary and devote Herb’s income to purchasing art. While reflecting their adventurous taste, the collection would need to conform to practical limitations of affordability and space. One artist recalls that the Vogels would only buy pieces they could carry home on the subway or in a taxi.


Diminutive and unassuming, the two became a fixture on the New York art scene, attending nightly gallery events and befriending many of the artists whose work they collected. Artist Chuck Close affectionately refers to the couple as the “mascots of the art world.” Collaborators Christo and Jeanne-Claude recall how Herb and Dorothy acquired a work of theirs in exchange for cat-sitting.


By the early 1990s, the Vogels’ collection filled every corner of their living space, from the bathroom to the kitchen, floor to ceiling. “Not even a toothpick could be squeezed into the apartment,” recalls Dorothy. The place was bursting at the seams, and something had to be done.


Courted by every major museum, the couple astounded the art world by transferring their entire collection—worth several million dollars—to the National Gallery of Art. As government workers themselves, they liked the idea of sharing their prized pieces with the American people. After weeks of packing, shippers carted away an astounding five full-sized moving trucks of paintings, drawings and sculptures from the tiny apartment.


Still in love with each other and with art, Herb and Dorothy continued to live in the same apartment, with their pet turtles, fish and cat. The once completely emptied space again became filled with art.


Herb Vogel passed away in July 2012.






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