Sunday, July 12, 2009

4782: Megumi Sasaki's "Herb & Dorothy"

I hated school. I hated people telling me what to do.
-Herb Vogel

I've just seen Megumi Sasaki's "Herb & Dorothy," about legendary art collectors Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. Their story is one of a kind in that they were both of modest means - Herb a postal worker, and Dorothy a librarian. But they had a plan; use Dorothy's salary to keep afloat of bills, and Herb's to purchase art. That they lived in NYC facilitated their love and obsession.

Their lives are a testament to ordinary people that accomplish extraordinary things. Theirs is an obsession that makes Hitch's Scotty in Vertigo seem like a walk in the park. Their collection, at 4,782 pieces, represents one of the most extensive of modern contemporary art, valued in the millions. That they never sold off any of their works and, when their small Manhattan apartment could absorb no more donated it to the National Gallery in DC is beyond remarkable. Their apartment was jaw-dropping and reminded me of what someone once said of Breton's at 42 Rue Fontaine, where every nook and cranny had an object that radiated an aura. (Breton's collection was 5,000 pieces plus, with over 3,000 of them books!)

But what forms perhaps an even more inspiring facet of their story is the relationships they forged with the artists themselves. When I first learned of the Vogels via 60 Minutes some years ago, I was struck by the affection and reverence the artists themselves would speak of the Vogels, regarding them as family.

In this day and age of evil, greed and trickery, the Vogel's story is required viewing. It serves as a sign post to those who have doubts about mankind. It reminds me of what Jerry Farber once said about everyday, common people; that we've always been free, we just didn't know it.

See this movie.