Imagine having an eye for art so keen that you know who and what is going to be a future artist that is “going” somewhere. Such is (often, at least) the cast of Herb and Dorothy Vogel, a married couple in New York who have amassed a large collection of modern/postmodern art that is all contained within their one bedroom New York apartment. Although they’re from modest working backgrounds, the Vogel’s had purchased pieces from the likes of Warhol and Tuttle, just to name a few, over the years. And just to be clear on the modest backgrounds: Herb was a postal worker and Dorothy was a librarian.
HERB & DOROTHY tells the extraordinary story of a postal clerk and a librarian who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means. In the early 1960s, when very little attention was paid to Minimalist and Conceptual Art, the Vogel’s quietly began purchasing the works of unknown artists. Devoting all of Herb’s salary to purchase art they liked, they collected 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. Within these limitations, they proved themselves curatorial visionaries; most of those they supported and befriended went on to become world-renowned artists, including Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel, Sol LeWitt, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Richard Tuttle, Chuck Close, Robert Mangold, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Lynda Benglis, Pat Steir, Robert Barry, Lucio Pozzi, and Lawrence Weiner. 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.
Although I’ve no real opinion on the topic of art, it doesn’t really matter when it comes to this film. While the topic of art is, of course, one of the topics of the documentary, the main focus is on the Vogel’s and the incredibly impressive collection that they have amassed. The quality and caliber of art that they’ve collected over the years is really just almost breathtaking and it’s that quality of art that has made them so renowned among the art community. Once they were married in 1960, Dorothy and Herb began collecting pieces of art from unknown artists and the two slowly began to fill up their apartment with small but impressive works of art.
What I got most out of the film was not so much that they had an eye for art, but more that this whole hobby of theirs was just something that they genuinely and truly loved doing together. Rarely were they ever apart and it was always their love of art that kept them close together. Many individuals go through life looking for just one iota of a connection that these two have and it’s truly nice to watch them attend events together in this documentary.
While there are plenty of interviews with major art talent today, the documentary is also littered with vintage footage of old art exhibits and events’, giving the art and history buffs something to drool over in case the main topic of Dorothy and Herb bore them somehow. As I mentioned previously I really don’t have an opinion on the matter of art in general (although I do wonder how piles of laundry and/or scrap metal statues sell for thousands), but there is still plenty to enjoy in this documentary.
The documentary itself is of a fair lengthy (just a few minutes shy of an hour and a half), but it’s rarely something you feel that drags on or wears out its welcome. In all it’s a really interesting look at how two relatively mid-level-income individuals can support and purchase pieces from artists that later become some of the most well known and revered artists of the past few decades. It’s their love for one another and art that drive this piece and Overall a Recommended documentary to be sure.
docuramafilms brings Herb & Dorothy to DVD in a standard amaray DVD case. Nothing overly special about the presentation of the documentary here—no fancy exterior cardboard slipcase and the cover itself looks like a rather laid back BBC special documentary release more than anything. Video and audio is a solid presentation overall and about what you’d expect from a documentary with vintage footage spliced into it. Overall a solid visual and audio presentation.
Extras are limited but include:
There’s some good stuff in here, especially the “Premiere” featurette which, while not overly lengthy, was a nice look at all who turned out to check out this film. Overall a Recommended package for art enthusiasts, but the general public will probably be satisfied with a Rental.
Herb & Dorothy arrives on DVD on December 15th.