Search This Blog

Friday, January 11, 2013

Herb and Dorothy

Tonight I watched a wonderful documentary entitled Herb and Dorothy (2008), directed by Megumi Sasaki, about an elderly couple, Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, who amassed an incredible collection of contemporary art over 50 years in their marriage, while working ordinary jobs as an post office clerk and a librarian. They were very cute and sweet together, both short and unassuming in size, and I loved seeing a film that celebrated people who combined their frugal lifestyle with a love and appreciation for art and culture. Plus, Dorothy being a librarian reminded me of my dream of being an archivist, so I related to it a lot, imagining being that happy and content with a dream job and recording the arts of New York City.

They married in 1962, just a year after they met. They met at a dance, and Dorothy said that Herb later said he approached her because she "looked intelligent." She goes, "It wasn't because I was cute?" and he answers with a shrug, "Yeah, you had that on too." They initially took painting classes at NYU, before deciding that they were better at collecting art than creating it. They only bought art that they really liked, not based on investments, that it had to be affordable, and if they could carry it home on the subway or in a taxi to fit in their Upper East Side apartment. They lived modestly, living on Dorothy's salary and using Herb's salary for art, eschewing eating out at restaurants or vacations so they could buy art. They didn't have children, preferring to have pets. Their Persian cat was named Archie Vogel, which I thought was a very dignified name.

They had a great eye for art. They developed friendships with artists, and really took the time to study art and make an educated choice. When meeting with artist James Siena, he saw that what "distinguished them from art collectors on one level was that they wanted to see everything. I'd show them one thing, and they'd say, 'Let me see something like that.' I'd show them, and they'd be 'Let me see another thing like that.' And they had to create a sort of mini-survey of my development."

The art that they collected spanned to over 4,782 works. And they ended up having quite valuable artwork by artists like Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichenstein, and Richard Tuttle. The artwork was cramming their tiny one-bedroom apartment. “Not even a toothpick could be squeezed into the apartment,” Dorothy had said. They transferred their collection to the National Gallery of Art in 1992 because they don't charge admission, they don't sell donated work, and they felt, as they had worked as civil servants for the city and government, they wanted to give back, and allow the public to see their art collection. That was an incredibly giving gesture of them, and so wonderful to see. They ended up donating 2,500 art pieces to fifty art institutions across fifty states.

Herbert and Dorothy Vogel are an inspiration to find happiness in the arts, to live modestly but rich in mind, and to enjoy and appreciate the small moments in life. Herb died in July 2012 at age 90, and seeing the two of them together, lightly bickering but being supportive of one another, I hope to have a relationship like that in my old age.

No comments:

Post a Comment