Brenau University is hoping to bring a big-city art scene to small-town Gainesville starting Saturday.
The school will open the “Manhattan Gallery” of art in the newly renovated Brenau Downtown Center this weekend as part of Brenau’s 135th anniversary gala.
As part of the gala, many works of art from the university’s prestigious permanent collection will be auctioned off to the community. At the same time, 26 new pieces will join the Brenau art collection, thanks to a donation from Dorothy Vogel, wife of the late Herbert Vogel.
The new works, including a piece by Giuseppe Napoli and others by Herbert Vogel, will join the more than 100 pieces of the Vogel collection already in residence at Brenau.
The couple began collecting art in 1962, said Dorothy Vogel, who attributes her knowledge of art entirely to her husband.
“My husband wanted to collect art,” she said. “When I met him, I didn’t know anything about art. I never took art in school, so I learned everything I know from him and going to various museums and lectures.”
The Vogels used their meager salaries to acquire works they particularly enjoyed and appreciated, creating what many have called one of the greatest personal collections in modern America.
“Herb and Dorothy Vogel created a legendary legacy,” Brenau University President Ed Schrader said. “Theirs truly is an American story, and Brenau is honored to be a part of its telling and retelling with this permanent exhibition. And I have been personally blessed by knowing them both.”
The pair never sold any of their collection, despite its worth, choosing instead to display it in museums and exhibitions nationwide. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. was the primary location for the collection, and the museum assisted the Vogels in donating more of the collection to various places.
“A great portion went to the National Gallery,” Dorothy Vogel said. “Then we did Fifty Works for Fifty States and gave 50 pieces to museums in each of the 50 states. We gave some to the University of Buffalo, where I went to school, and other places.”
As the collection dwindled, Vogel wanted to keep donating to institutions that would appreciate the art. Since the couple had a connection to Brenau, it was an easy choice for her.
“We had a show at Brenau of all women artists in our collection a while back, and I wanted to give some works to a place other than a museum, so it seemed like a good idea,” Vogel said.
Although Vogel no longer collects art, she still participated in question-and-answer sessions about the film “Herb & Dorothy 50 x 50” and other films about the collection.
The Vogels’ famed collection is now donated to museums and universities nationwide. Vogel did not keep any favorites for herself because “I have no favorites.”
Vogel will be on hand to answer questions after a free screening of “Herb & Dorothy 50 x 50” at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Brenau University’s East Campus. She will also attend the gallery opening and the Brenau Gala at the Downtown Center at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“The Vogels loved for people to see their art treasures,” Schrader said. “Brenau will carry on that tradition at the Downtown Center Manhattan Gallery.”
In addition to the gallery opening, gala attendees may bid on 33 different works from the Brenau permanent collection or purchase one of 69 other works, ranging in price from $30 to $800.
For anyone not attending the gala, community members can bid in an online auction for many of the pieces through BidPal.
Tickets are $100 and can be purchased by calling 770-534-6163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. To sign up for the online auction, visit www.bidpal.net/brenaugala.