This review originally appeared in March during coverage of the Philadelphia Film Festival and Philadelphia Cinefest 09.
During the 1960s and 1970s, when American art was, for many, indecipherable, an unassuming New York couple named Herb and Dorothy Vogel cracked the code.
The postal clerk (Herb) and librarian (Dorothy) were after-hours artists, admirers of abstract expressionists and color-field painters. On their modest salaries, they couldn't afford to buy works by Jackson Pollock or Helen Frankenthaler.
Their regular visits to museums, galleries, and artists' studios attuned them to the avant-garde, minimalists such as Richard Tuttle and conceptualists such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude. They decided to live on Dorothy's salary and to use Herb's to buy small works from these and other vanguardists, lining every inch of their one-bedroom, rent-controlled apartment with more than 4,000 small works by those who would become big artists.
Megumi Sasaki's convivial Herb and Dorothy is both a double-portrait of the diminutive couple, now in their 90s and 80s, and a sketch of the art, and artists, collected by these vest-pocket Rockefellers.
While Sasaki's film succeeds in conveying the collectors' enthusiasm for the new and the difficult in art, it does not fully communicate what the keen-eyed couple saw in the work they collected.
The film's takeaway message is bracing: Where most collectors see art as much as an investment as a passion, not so the Vogels, who did not, strictly speaking, sell their collection. What they did with it makes this bighearted movie an inspiration.EndText