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50 for the Arts Center 

Dorothy and Herb Vogel's gift to go on exhibit.

click to enlarge Dorothy and Herb Vogel image
  • Dorothy and Herb Vogel

The story of art collectors Dorothy and Herb Vogel of New York is a truly wonderful tale of a couple who loved art so much that they devoted much of their middle-class income to its acquisition. They began buying art in the 1960s, purchasing from young artists before they'd hit the big leagues, when the pieces were affordable. And they bought and bought and bought, until their modest one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan was crammed full, loaded with about 2,400 pieces of art. In the late 1980s, the Vogels — he a postal service retiree and she nearing retirement as a librarian — decided to donate their collection to museums, and Arkansas and every other state in the Union got lucky.

Hence the name of the exhibit opening Sept. 21 at the Arkansas Arts Center, "50 for Arkansas: the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection." The couple's gift to Arkansas is part of the Vogels' "50X50" donation of 50 works to all 50 states, to institutions of their choice, making the Arts Center lucky as well. The remainder of the Vogel collection went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The Arts Center's gift includes work by 23 artists, among them William Anastasi, Will Barnet, Lynda Benglis, Robert Duran, Robert Mangold, Richard Tuttle and others.

The Arts Center is showing the film "Herb and Dorothy" on Oct. 18, and it's a shame it couldn't be shown sooner. The film was screened at the Little Rock Film Festival in 2009, showing the Vogels to be a charming and crafty couple up to their eyeballs in minimalist art. Their collecting guidelines: It had to be affordable and fit in the apartment.

There's a funny scene with the couple and installation artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who wrapped the Pont Neuf, the Reichstag, draped Central Park and planned for years to hang a curtain over the Arkansas River valley in Colorado, a project that is still being discussed. Christo and Jeanne-Claude made a deal with the Vogels: The artists would give them a collage of the Valley Curtain and the Vogels would babysit their cat, Gladys. You can see a tiny-screen video of the film online on an Independent Lens page at pbs.org.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock can brag that it was among the early venues to show the Vogels' collection, with its exhibition of "Drawings from the Collection of Dorothy and Herbert Vogel" in 1986, the catalog for which was "the most substantial publication about the collection to that date," according to the excellent website, vogel5050.org.

The Arts Center plans to offer tours of the collection, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. The exhibition runs through Jan. 6, 2013.

Also opening Sept. 21 at the Arts Center: "Multiplicity," a traveling show from the Smithsonian. The show features prints by Vija Celmins, Chuck Close, Richard Estes, David Hockney, Sol LeWitt, Kiki Smith, Kara Walker and others that make use of repetition and serial images. It closes Jan. 6.

In October, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will host an exhibition by one of Arkansas's finest artists and a UALR faculty member, Aj Smith. "Faces of the Delta" will feature Smith's large-scale graphite portraits. The show runs Oct. 4-Nov. 16.

In Fayetteville in November, the University of Arkansas Fine Arts Center will host an exhibition of prints by Louise Bourgeois, "Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature." The prints by the internationally known artist — the Tate Modern in London and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris organized a traveling retrospective of her work in 2007 — at the UA include nine large-scale copper plate etchings commissioned by the Whitney Museum in New York. The exhibition runs Nov. 7 through Dec. 13 in the Fine Arts Center Gallery.

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