The Vogels are not the multimillionaires that one might expect. A former New York City librarian and postal clerk, respectively, they lived on Dorothy's salary and sacrificed Herbert's income to their art habit. Circumventing the high-culture dealers, they bought whatever art they could afford and that was small enough to fit in their one--bedroom apartment. As legend has it, the couple once "bought" a work from well-known environmental artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude in exchange for babysitting their cat. They bought art because they loved it, not because it was a wise investment. They eventually gave away most of their collection, donating fifty pieces to each of fifty museums--one in every state. UMMA was the Michigan recipient.
Pieces in the Vogels' collection often reflect the artists' thoughts and imagination more than they demonstrate technical skill. They celebrate the sheer joy of creating and the infinite possibilities that an artist has if unrestrained by historical expectations or the need to justify their product. While museums traditionally have trained us to stand awed in the presence of technical mastery, An Economy of Means democratically suggests that everyone can make and buy art. If you believe that the most playful art can be the most poetic, you will find this exhibition to be an interesting exploration of the childlike joys of making and collecting art, even when both seem irrational.
The exhibit runs through May 2.
[Originally published in April, 2010.]