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TO JUNE 23
Dorothy Vogel, a librarian, and Herbert, her postal-clerk husband, are often presented as the Little Engine That Could of contemporary art collectors. They are more plausibly seen as the exception that proves the rule that serious collecting requires a large bankroll. And they aren’t really that much of an exception. Their main achievement has been to stockpile minor works by major minimal and conceptual artists, as was previously evidenced by the 1994 show that honored the gift of their collection to the National Gallery of Art. As far as collecting-fantasies go, the NGA’s new “Christo and Jeanne-Claude in the Vogel Collection” should be less frustrating. The duo Javacheff (that’s the name they dumped when they Prince-ified their brand) are ideal targets for the Vogels: It’s impossible to collect their major works—they’re all vast (Valley Curtain, Grand Hogback, Rifle, Colorado, 1970-72 is pictured), temporary, and unsaleable. Wrapping a section of the Australian coast or peppering the Japanese and American landscapes with killer umbrellas is expensive, though, so the artists sponsor their projects with drawings, prints, and other multiples. What collectors buy and what you see on display are the husks of their system of self-patronage. As if the sense of you-weren’t-there weren’t strong enough, Christo reminds us that it’s the wind that really brings the sculptures alive, and an extensive film series may bear him out. Viewing the core exhibition, however, is like looking at a bunch of those certificates that parcel out the naming of celestial bodies, only to discover that the stars that were sold have already burned out. It’s on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Monday to Thursday; and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. to Sunday, June 23, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 737-4215. (Glenn Dixon)