Art

Giving the gift of art

Collectors select LVAM for donation of 50 new works

Image
Larry Zox, Scissors Jack Series, 1965. Black ink, gouache on graph paper, 11 1/16 x 13 15/16 inches. Las Vegas Art Museum, The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art, with generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Photo: Lyle Peterzell

Very fine works on paper. Smaller sculptures. Prints. Pieces that often show the artist in the idea stage, sorting out plans for what will be, ideally, a masterpiece. Fifty such works by notable contemporary artists were gifted to the Las Vegas Art Museum this week, at a time when the museum, too, is in a stage of promising cultivation.

The museum was selected to receive the gift as part of a national program, The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, administered by the National Gallery of Art, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Some 2,500 works will be distributed to select museums in every state nationwide as part of the program.

“I’m really thrilled,” Libby Lumpkin, LVAM director, says. “First, it adds important artists we didn’t have, and second, it enhances our potential to become a kind of research institution for scholars to study and chart the development of artistic careers—this is one of the aspects of a full-service museum.”

Although a final list of donated works isn’t yet available, it will include pieces by contemporary artists Bettina Werner, Edward Renouf, F.L. Schröder and Larry Zox.

The gifts come from a storied private collection amassed by New Yorkers Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. The couple, a research librarian and a postal worker, respectively, began purchasing art during the 1960s, living on Dorothy’s salary and buying contemporary art with Herbert’s earnings, focusing on minimal and conceptual works, usually small-scale—and affordable—items. Four decades later, they had amassed more than 4,000 pieces that make up a historically important collection that has been featured in exhibits worldwide.

According to the National Gallery website: “As patrons with modest means, they have collected objects small in scale, primarily drawings, but they have also acquired paintings and sculpture, as well as a smaller number of prints, photographs and illustrated books. With the exception of the collection formed by their friend, artist Sol LeWitt, no other known private collection of similar work in Europe or America rivals the range, complexity and quality of the art the Vogels acquired.”

The Vogels announced the first 10 recipients of their gifts in April 2008, ranging from the High Museum of Art in Atlanta to the Seattle Art Museum. LVAM will receive its gifts as part of a second wave to be delivered by the end of this year (the final round will be distributed in 2009). The 50 specific works headed for Vegas were selected by a committee that included the Vogels and National Gallery of Art curator Ruth Fine, Lumpkin explains. She had no input on the choices.

“Ours probably were the easiest to assign, because we have so little,” Lumpkin says. “Other museums might already have 35 Richard Tuttle drawings, for example, so they wouldn’t need more—these are the ways curators think in giving works. We were probably more like a blank slate.”

The works will represent a significant share of LVAM’s permanent collection, which was created in 1956 and has—counting the Vogel donation—about 200 works. “So this gift is quite a boon,” LVAM curatorial assistant Alise Upitis says.

“About half the [recipient] museums were chosen because the Vogels have lectured or lent works from their collection to those institutions for shows,” Upitis says. “The rest were selected because they are museums of national merit and standing but lacked a permanent collection of important minimal and conceptual art, which is the focus of the Vogel collection. LVAM falls within this latter category.

“LVAM’s selection offers validation to our efforts over the last few years to become a nationally respected contemporary art museum,” Upitis concludes.

The works are expected to go on exhibit at LVAM in April.

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