Herb & Dorothy

Posted by schnolis on July 1st, 2009 filed in Reviews

MOVIEOn some level Herb & Dorothy Vogel are a typical New York couple. He sorted mail for the post office and she was a librarian. Together they shared a tiny rent-controlled apartment in New York City. They liked pets, shopping, and spending time together. But there the similarities begin to diverge. Instead of filling their apartment with couches and chairs, televisions and technology, they bought ar–not a poster from the most recent movie or a print from a famous artist. They collected modern, cutting edge artwork before the artists became popular.

Their requirements for buying something were pretty simple. First, it had to be affordable on their budget. Dorothy’s paycheck would cover the rent, the food, and other living expenses. Herb’s check went toward the acquisition of new art. Pieces they purchased had to be transportable to their apartment and had to fit inside somewhere. Quickly the paintings, sculptures and hangings filled every available nook their apartment offered. Soon that wasn’t enough. Newer work replaced older ones. Canvas got stuck in boxes and crates, rolled and hidden in stacks of art that rose up to the ceiling in places.

Herb & Dorothy were passionate collectors, described by some artists as “the mascots of the New York art scene”. They were and are loved by a variety of artists everywhere whose work remained unappreciated by just about everyone except the Vogels. Testimonial after testimonial spoke of the shrewd eye for art that Herb possessed and the deals he would strike to be able to afford not just a single piece of work but a reflective sample of a promising artist’s progression. In the end their collection outgrew their apartment, so they donated it to everyone through the National Gallery of Art.

What I liked: The overwhelming dedication to art of this couple. It’s amazing that their story is even possible from two people with ordinary jobs and lives. But their passion and resolve to seek out artists they liked and pieces that pleased them proved successful. I admire their desire to do this together, for decades. When I compare their focus to my own, I find my own a bit lacking. I spread myself too thin to accomplish anywhere near what they’ve done. But maybe it’s not too late for me to learn a thing or two from these amazing people.

What I disliked: I would have liked to have seen more of the collection. I would like to know more about what the pieces cost, and how much it would be worth to sell it. As someone who doesn’t follow modern art, I think the movie did a fair job of explaining what certain styles were, though more from the artists might have been better.

Rating: 8 of 10

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