Art Forum: Take Two On ‘Herb And Dorothy’
Kim: The marketing tag line for Herb and Dorothy goes, “You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to collect art,” and Megumi Sasaki’s film proves you just need an eye and a genuine passion -- to build a world-class art collection on the meager salaries of a postal clerk and librarian.
David: You also have to be surrounded by starving artists as well. They were so happy to sell stuff that they would let them pay for art in installments.
Kim: You would know all about layaway plans! Herb and Dorothy Vogel were at the right place at the right time. New York City was affordable and full of artists exploding with ideas, so they were able to buy art -- even if it was only Christo’s plans for a bigger piece, or a Chuck Close original photo before it was blown up and altered.
In Herb and Dorothy, Sasaki lovingly unveils the shambolic purchasing habits of the semi-self-taught uber-enthusiasts, as well as the mutually beneficial friendships they forged with minimalist and conceptual artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s. And in return for the Vogels’ checks (the pair had only a few conditions when it came to the art they purchased: it had to be affordable and small enough to carry home on the subway or shove into a cab) those artists show up to tell their side of the story to the filmmaker. The biggies include Chuck Close, Christo, Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle, Richard Mangold, and Pat Steir.
David: You know what gets me -- how did Herb know what to buy and what not buy? That was his gift. He seems like a bit of a Harvey Pekar character, without all the grumpiness -- and way ahead of his time.
Kim: And what a gift they eventually gave to the National Gallery of Art. After being crowded out of their one-bedroom apartment by 30 years worth of collecting and more than 2,000 pieces -- now worth millions -- the couple decided to move their prizes to the museum, which happily accepted as much it could but eventually had to turn away works. And as space has opened up in the Vogel’s apartment, the couple has filled it with newly acquired art. Wonderful old habits -- and magnificent obsessions -- die hard.
Herb and Dorothy shows at Lumiere, 1572 California, S.F., and Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck, Berk. For showtimes and more information, go to www.landmarktheatres.com.