Elevate Difference

Herb and Dorothy

“You may not have lots of money. Your job may be boring. Still, life can be exciting and fulfilling to the extent that we allow ourselves to follow our passions.” —Megumi Sasaki, director of Herb and Dorothy

The award-winning documentary Herb and Dorothy follows the touchingly obsessive love affair between Herb and Dorothy Vogel, contemporary art, and New York City. It is the story of how a New York postal worker and librarian become two of the greatest contemporary art collectors of our time.

In the early 1960s, Herb and Dorothy met, fell in love, and their art collecting began. For their honeymoon, they went to Washington, DC and made a beeline for the National Gallery of Art. It was there Herb gave Dorothy her first art lesson. She became as enthralled as he was and soon they were taking art classes back in New York, painting works in their one bedroom apartment.

It was then they started to slowly build their collection of minimal and conceptual art. Throughout their years as collectors, Herb and Dorothy had few rules to what they could and could not purchase. In fact, there were only two: pieces had to be affordable and they had to fit into the apartment.

Along with their voracious appetite for art, Herb and Dorothy had a genuine interest in artists’ development and continue to maintain relationships with the artists they have bought from over the years. Watching the interviews with different artists in the documentary (Richard Tuttle, Chuck Close, and Richard Mangold to name a few), one can imagine them jumping at the chance to share their stories of Herb and Dorothy and praise the couple’s sincerity.

In 1992, the Vogels’ apartment was filled with art well above its maximum capacity. They decided to move their collection to the National Gallery of Art, much of which was a gift. They admirably had a code to never sell any of their art for profit and particularly liked that the gallery was free to the public. With some help, the Vogels are also launching Fifty Works for Fifty States, which will distribute 2,500 works from their collection throughout the nation by the end of 2009.

People with Herb and Dorothy’s love and intensity are rare. After being married and collecting art for forty-five years, the couple couldn’t be less bored with life. Throughout the film it’s clear that the couple’s marriage and relationship as art collectors are equal partnerships. Neither thinks their collection would be as brilliant as it is without the other. As Dorothy puts it, they’ve done everything together and that’s the way they like it. Today, they still live in the same one bedroom apartment, and are refilling it with more art.

Even if you don’t love art, you will fall in love with Herb and Dorothy. It would seem impossible not to leave this documentary with a smile and a renewed sense of hope that love exists and anything is possible with enough passion.

Written by: Jill Hindenach, March 9th 2009