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