Thursday, February 4, 2010

Herb and Dorothy - Movie Review

Last week, I saw a quirky documentary about two senior citizen art collectors, Herb and Dorothy Vogel. This activity, typically reserved for the ultra-rich was accomplished by two people living on very modest budgets- Herb a postal clerk, and Dorothy, a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn Heights. Herb, a self-taught art lover with a voracious appetite and a good eye, and Dorothy, his new wife. As a newlywed couple with a budding passion for the arts, they attempted painting and formal training in the arts, but eventually gave up the vision of being artists themselves because of their all-consuming appreciation for what other artists were creating. Over the years, they amassed a collection of about 4,782 works by some of the most significant minimal and conceptual artists from the last four decades.

When it came to making a purchase, they had only two rules: (1) it had to be affordable, and (2) it had to be able to fit in their apartment. Very simply, they just bought what they liked. Among their first purchases was a Sol Lewitt piece which "set the tone for the collection". The rest of it was "built on the generosity of artists". Their now priceless collection was not dictated by the ebbs and flows of Wall Street, what dealers sold them as being "fashionable" or a good investment, or by the latest reviews in Artforum. Their collection developed by attending every possible gallery opening in New York City, by becoming friends with the artists, and by having a good eye for what they wanted. They often bought works on their limited budget because no one else wanted it, or because it wasn't a significant piece in the artist's body of work. It turns out that many of the pieces in their collection were later seen by (now very famous) artists as transitional pieces of great import.

Through decades of collecting, they never sold a piece, and the physical space of the collection has almost run them out of their apartment. In accordance with their wishes, it is now kept whole as part of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. which in all irony, was the first stop on their honeymoon. The Vogels have truly come full circle. "It's just beautiful that's all. And beauty is enjoyable." Yes, admiring, appreciating, and collecting art can be that simple. Right on, Herb. Right on!

As of 2009, the Vogels are still at it; attending gallery openings, buying art, and loving every minute of it. Proving yet again, that slow and steady wins the race. I'll certainly be looking for them at future art openings here in the city.

1 comment:

  1. Patrick and i watched the documentary about Herb and Dorothy this weekend and we both LOVED it. What a great couple and they were so amazingly honest with each other! It was refreshing to hear their story, see their passion for art and the friendships they built with the artists whose work they collected. You'll have to let me know if you ever run into them at an opening!

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