Patron on a postal salary

I finally finished reading Mako Fujimura’s latest essay. On the last page he mentions the Vogels, art collectors of very modest means. I Googled “Vogel collection” to find a little more biographical information on these renowned patrons and learned quickly that a documentary about the couple is due out in June.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vma2T5luy08]

Mako points out that “The Vogels were not Guggenheims [or, if I might add for my Northwest Arkansas readers, Waltons] with inherited endowments, nor were they hedge fund managers with millions of dollars to spend: remarkably, they were civil servants who worked at postal offices . . . ” From the website for Herb and Dorothy, the aforementioned documentary:

    He was a postal clerk. She was a librarian. With their modest means, the couple managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history.

    Meet Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, whose shared passion and commitment defied stereotypes and redefined what it means to be an art collector.”

The Vogels have pledged 2,500 works — stacked away in boxes and tucked under their bed — to 50 museums in 50 states. Most of their contemporary collection possess a minimalist aesthetic. They bought pieces decades ago from virtual unknowns that are now important modern artists: Robert Barry, Sol LeWitt and Richard Tuttle are among 170 different artists in their personal gallery.

Your own aesthetic may not be drawn to such minimalist and non-representational art, but trust me when I say there are other artists out there you will like. There are more stories like Herb and Dorothy’s waiting to be told, and waiting to be created. Visit your local gallery today. Find something you like and can afford and buy it. You’ll be making an investment not just in a financial sense, but in a cultural sense.

    A friend mused recently to me: “We may not see a Wall Street boom again for a long time, certainly not in our life time.” Because of the banking crisis and possible nationalization of them, we may end up with a long protracted recession at best (which would make the U.S. more like Japan, by the way). Possibly so, but what if in lieu of a Wall Street boom, we “invested” in different capitals, capitals of the gift economy . . . we learned from artists and nature what it means to have sustainable growth that re-humanizes, rather than a expedited, de-humaized growth . . . Had we known that our 401(k)s will be “201(k)”s as one commentator recently put it, would we have reconsidered our investment in something more generous, more life giving than protecting our wallets?

Read more about the couple and the documentary in this Washington Post article.

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About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

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