NEA Arts Magazine

Fifty Works for Fifty States

Spreading the Art

When one thinks of legendary art collectors, one thinks of billionaires in their lofty mansions or the carefree eccentric with easy access to cash. One doesn't usually think of a librarian or a postal worker living in a cramped apartment in Brooklyn, overflowing with artwork. Yet that would describe two of the more renowned art collectors of 20th-century art, Dorothy and Herb Vogel. After donating much of their collection to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC, over the last two decades, they wanted to share their collection with more of the United States -- which led to the innovative Fifty Works for Fifty States initiative.

Through The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, the Vogels are giving 2,500 works by 177 artists to 50 museums throughout the country -- one in each state. As Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery, noted in his foreword to the catalog on the project, the Vogels expect that "their gifts will significantly enhance the representation of contemporary art in all regions of the country."The initiative is a collaboration of the NGA, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The NEA is producing the catalog for the initiative, noting all the museums participating and providing 200 color plates of works from the collection, including one from each of the 177 artists represented. IMLS is creating a Web site ( that will bring together information about all 2,500 works in the initiative, linking to the 50 participating institutions across the country. The NEA-produced catalog will be completed in November 2008.