It Takes Determination, Not an Accident

How do you accomplish something significant?  Not by accident, that’s for sure.  Just ask Herb and Dorothy Vogel.

The Vogels lived in a 450 square foot, one-bedroom apartment in New York City.  Herb never earned more than $23,000 per year working for the post office, and Dorothy made even less working for the library.  Yet they accumulated what most experts call the most important private art collection of the 20th century.

The Vogels lived frugally, which allowed them to have a limited budget for their passion: collecting art.  But the Vogels had no formal training in art, they just purchased pieces that they liked and that were a good deal at the time.

Starting in the 1960’s they became regulars at art galleries and they spent time meeting many young artists, some of whom would go on to considerable fame.  When they found a piece they liked, it had to meet three criteria: it had to be within their limited budget, it had to fit in their small apartment, and it had to be transportable by taxi.

Numerous articles and a documentary film entitled Herb and Dorothy discuss how they slowly packed their apartment from floor to ceiling until they barely had room to move around.  In the 1980’s they realized they were running out of room, but instead of selling their pieces, they spent several years finding a place to donate it.

In 1990, the National Gallery came to the Vogel’s apartment where they found an astonishing 2,400 works of art.  It took five 40-foot trucks to move all of the art out of their tiny apartment, and the donated collection is worth well into the millions.

As soon as their apartment was cleared out, the Vogels started collecting again, using their monthly retirement funds to collect another 1,500 pieces of art.  Their collecting days finally ended when Herb passed away in July of 2012.

The Vogel’s art collection did not happen by accident.  Nothing of value does.  With similar determination we can make a lasting mark on others, whether it’s personally or professionally.

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