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He was a postal clerk. She was a librarian. With their modest means, the couple managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history. Meet Herb and Dorothy Vogel, whose shared passion and discipline have defied stereotypes and redefined what it means to be an art collector. Written by
Minimalism in art is clearly a matter of personal taste - one either loves it or loathes it, "gets" it or doesn't - but what cannot be debated is the influence Herbert and Dorothy Vogel have had on its cultivation over the past half century. Not as artists themselves, mind you - their own dabbling in it proved to be both unproductive and short-lived - but as the most famous patrons and backers of those who create the actual works.
Though not wealthy themselves, Herb, a drab, colorless postal worker by day and an obsessive art maven by night, and his equally passionate wife Dorothy, have managed, over the course of five decades, to amass the world's greatest collection of minimalist and conceptual art - close to five thousand pieces in all. Almost from the day they first met in 1960, the two have been scouring the Manhattan art scene, constantly on the lookout for works to purchase and artists to champion.
And speaking of minimalism, director Megumi Sasaki provides relatively few biographical details about the couple, preferring instead to concentrate on their work as collectors and the impact their intense passion and love for art have had on the scene. Sasaki relies primarily on interviews - with both the Vogels themselves and the artists whose lives and works they've influenced - to paint his portrait of the couple.
As a film, "Herb and Dorothy" doesn't always make for the most riveting of viewing, seeing as much of the artwork they're fawning over is - let's be perfectly honest about it - more than a trifle preposterous. Indeed, you might even have trouble suppressing an irreverent giggle from time to time as you examine some of the pieces. But, as subjects for the camera, the Vogels convey such a down-home warm, generous and wise aura and presence that it's hard to be all that cynical about it.
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