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Herb & Dorothy

4.7 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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(Dec 15, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In the early 1960s, Herb & Dorothy Vogel a postal worker and librarian began purchasing the works of unknown Minimalist and Conceptual artists, guided by two rules: the piece had to be affordable, and it had to be small enough to fit in their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. They proved themselves curatorial visionaries; most of those they supported and befriended went on to become world-renowned artists. HERB & DOROTHY provides a unique chronicle of the world of contemporary art from two unlikely collectors, whose shared passion and discipline defies stereotypes and redefines what it means to be a patron of the arts.

This unique documentary debut by Megumi Sasaki is a surprisingly entertaining look into what some artists consider a mundane topic: art collecting. Herb & Dorothy transforms potentially dry subject matter with humor and intrigue into a story that will warm artists and collectors to each other, not to mention expose the public to an elusive business. Organized chronologically, Herb & Dorothy profiles the Vogels, a Manhattan couple who met in 1960 and began collecting art with their meager incomes from the post office and the Brooklyn Public Library. Starting at a Robert Mangold opening, the documentary shows the now elderly Vogels in action among artists and curators as they attend events as they have for the past 40 years. The film moves between the Vogels in their art-crammed apartment and interviews with artists such as the Christos, Richard Tuttle, Lynda Benglis, Pat Steir, and James Siena, who have appreciated the Vogels' loyal patronage. Indeed, footage of artists speaking so fondly of collectors is a rarity. But besides the praise that is bestowed upon the Vogels here, and the historical recounting of how they constructed one of the best Minimalist and Conceptual art collections to date, Herb & Dorothy is strengthened by its presentation of alternative perspectives. Gallerists are interviewed to discuss the problem with collectors buying direct from artists, undercutting the system, so to speak. This capitalist approach seems all the more absurd when one realizes the personal relationships that have been forged between artist and collector. This film shows how the collectors begin from scratch to purchase art, train their eyes to artistic movements, support those movements, and then eventually donate the collection to a museum. It is a story portraying a sheer love of art that transcends the commodification of creative work. Herb & Dorothy is not only a film for art world aficionados; it will surely please anyone in the community who can use a reminder about artistic exchange in an ideal state. --Trinie Dalton

Product Details

  • Actors: Will Barnet, Robert Barry, Lynda Benglis, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Chuck Close
  • Directors: Megumi Sasaki
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Arthouse Films
  • DVD Release Date: December 15, 2009
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002RB56WM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,105 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Herb & Dorothy" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
If you were to see Herb and Dorothy Vogel walking down the streets of Manhattan today, you would probably think they were just an ordinary old Jewish couple on their way to the Carnegie Deli for some lean brisket. You would probably be right.

But if you had seen them walking down the streets of lower Manhattan in So-Ho or Tribeca sometime in the early 1970's (very unhip areas back then) you would have been very puzzled. Why would this tiny couple (they are both short) be walking around these rough neighborhoods full of punk clubs, drug addicts, scary leather bars, empty lofts and all kinds of disreputable people and why aren't they scared?

The reason is because they were probably on their way to see some emerging artist in his workspace or to attend some offbeat gallery show of minimalist art. Later you might have seen them heading back uptown on the subway or in a taxi with packages of art. You would have thought, well, this is just strange enough to be typical in New York.

Here, you would be wrong.

Herb and Dorothy Vogel are anything but typical. He was a worker for the US Post Office, with only a couple of years of high school for education, but he was a voracious reader of art books and an overall intelligent autodidact. She was a highly educated woman with a graduate degree who made a fine career working for the New York Public Library.

But, living frugally on her salary, the Vogels were able to use his salary to buy art. What kind of art? Well, mostly minimalist art from some known, but mostly from unknown artists. What were their criteria for purchase? There was only one, they simply had to like it. That's it.
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Format: DVD
I've only seen the edited-down 60 min. version of this documentary that was shown on PBS Independent Lens, but this was a great film about a couple's obsession with collecting modern abstract art despite their meager incomes and having very little place to store any of it in their one-bedroom apartment in NYC. I am very much looking forward to seeing the full version.

It is a fascinating warts-and-all portrayal of Herbert & Dorothy Vogel, a pair of working class art collectors who manage to put together one of the most extensive collections of minimialist and conceptual modern abstract art by visiting local NYC artists in their studios (to buy directly from them rather than through a gallery) and driving a hard bargain.

The film does a good job of explaining how Herb & Dorothy got involved in the NYC art world and got started on collecting art back in the 1950s. Although it is primarily shot in the "present" day with reminesces to those earlier times by not only Herb & Dorothy, but by many artists and others who knew them in the art scene, there is some archival footage of a younger Herb & Dorothy at art exhibitions, etc. It brings the viewer from those early beginnings up to the present day, with some very interesting developments in the latter part of the film.

The film is generally flattering - and Herb & Dorothy are a tremendously cute elderly couple - but notes that some artists and participants in the NYC art scene view the Vogels as exploitative, approaching local artists when they are vulnerable by discovering them before they make it big and offering them paltry sums that will barely put food on the table or pay their rent for pieces that will eventually become tremendously valuable. The viewer is left to judge these criticisms for him or herself.
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Format: DVD
This documentary as well as Dr. Barns documentary The Art Of Steal The Art of the Steal should be shown in every school. It is so true that money can not buy happiness and this documentary is a testimony to that fact. I have watched few art documentaries and although there is nothing big happening at H&B (Herb & Dorothy) as far as any drama is concerned, there were few issues that jumped at me which are very noticeable. Dr. Barns a billionaire business man had collected something like 30 billion dollar worth of art in his own beautifully designed art museum, in a beautiful building in a residential neighborhood with much controversy. In the end Dr. Barns who had a written will that his art should not be moved anywhere at all after his death, kept in his museum and open to the poor at no charge, lost it all to his enemies that he hated much when alive.

At H&D we have two very simple, loving individuals that not only they are not rich at all as far as their business accomplishment or their check book is concerned it is undeniably shocking to see so much love between not only Herb and Dorothy but the same love that they extend to all the artists that they work with and purchase their art works, their turtles, fish, city of New York, neighborhood, and more importantly the art work that they collect not as a financial investment but love.

Dr. Barns set up an unbelievable collection. I could care less for the H&D's art since it is not my taste at all, Dr. Barns collection is the one that I am fascinated by but as a human being, spiritually I admired and cherished H&D.
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