Art Stars

c sarrisherbdorothy Art StarsHerb & Dorothy
Running Time  89 minutes
Directed by Megumi Sasaki
Starring Herb and Dorthy Vogel

Megumi Sasaki’s Herb & Dorothy describes and amply illustrates the extraordinary saga of the Vogels—Herbert, a postal clerk, and Dorothy, a librarian—who double-handedly built one of the most important collections of Minimalist and Conceptual Art in history with their very modest salaries, beginning in the early ’60s and continuing to this day. By mutual agreement, Herb’s salary was devoted entirely to purchasing the artwork; Dorothy’s paycheck alone paid for all their other living expenses. Furthermore, the pieces had to be small enough to fit into their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. At the time, not much attention was paid to the art movements that followed Abstract Expressionism, which was why the farsighted curatorial team of Herb and Dorothy were able to afford so many pieces that would eventually become art treasures. Among many of their early discoveries who went on to become world-renowned masters were Sol LeWitt, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Richard Tuttle, Chuck Close, Robert and Sylvia Mangold, Lynda Benglis, Pat Steir, Robert Barry, Lucio Pozzi and Laurence Weiner.

After 30 years of discerning, collecting and buying, the Vogel consortium accumulated over 2,000 pieces, filling every corner of their tiny one-bedroom domicile. “Not even a toothpick could be squeezed into the apartment,” recalls Dorothy. Hence, the Vogels decided in 1992 to donate their entire collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Most of the pieces in the collection were given as a gift to the institution. Over the years, many of the pieces had risen so much in value that their collection today is worth millions of dollars. What is truly amazing, especially in this age of Ponzi schemes and the misappropriation of people’s life savings, is the fact that Herb and Dorothy have never sold a single piece in their collection. Today they still live in the same apartment in New York with 19 turtles, lots of fish and one cat. They’ve refilled the place with pieces of new art.

asarris@observer.com