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Paul Vogt (1926–2017)

Paul Vogt, the former longtime director of the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany, died in Münster on October 1 at the age of ninety-one. The institution announced his passing on October 10.

Trained as an art historian, Vogt led Museum Folkwang from 1963 until 1988. During his tenure, he worked to rebuild the museum’s collection, which had been purged of “degenerate art” by the Nazis. More than fourteen hundred artworks were confiscated from the institution beginning in 1937. Vogt repurchased twenty paintings from the original collection of Folkwang founder Karl Ernst Osthof, including Paul Cézanne’s Steinbruch Bibémus (Bibémus Quarry), ca. 1885, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Tanzpaar (Couple), 1914.

Under Vogt’s leadership, the institution also established a photography department and greatly expanded its permanent collection, adding works by American artists such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, and Franz Kline, along with modern and contemporary European pieces by Yves Klein, Gerhard Richter, Lucio Fontana, and the founders of the Zero group: Günter Uecker, Otto Piene, and Heinz Mack. Vogt was focused on restoring the museum’s reputation as the renowned contemporary art institution that prompted Paul J. Sachs, the cofounder of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, to call it “the most beautiful museum in the world” during a visit to Essen in 1932.

Born on May 29, 1926, Vogt studied art history and archeology at the University of Göttingen. He first joined Museum Folkwang in 1954 as an assistant to director Heinz Köhn, and in 1963 he succeeded Köhn. In 1977, Vogt became a professor at the University of Essen, where he taught for many years. Among the numerous publications Vogt completed over the course of his career are two catalogues raisonnés on the work of German Expressionist Christian Rohlfs: one on the artist’s printed graphics and another on his paintings, published in 1950 and 1978, respectively.