Earlier this week my Salon 11 buddies and I watched a delightful documentary called Herb and Dorothy. It's the story of Herb and Dorothy Vogel, that legendary New York librarian and postal worker who have managed to amass a literally priceless collection of Minimalist and other late 20th-century art on an extremely limited budget. They sacrificed so much to build their collection but they're completely devoted to collecting.
Not too long ago, the Vogels donated--that's right, I said donated--their collection of nearly 5,000 pieces to the National Gallery of Art (where, incidentally, they spent their honeymoon!). Because the National Gallery can only display a small fraction of the collection, the pieces are being divided up and distributed to museums in all 50 states in the U.S. Herb and Dorothy feel that because they were able to collect art using income from their government jobs, it's only fitting for the collection to return to the American people. Their generosity is almost incomprehensible.
But perhaps even more striking is the Vogels' connection to the artists they have collected. The Vogels have as much passion for art as any artist I've ever known. When they become interested in an artist, they get to know that person personally. They discuss the work, encourage the artist, and provide support with their money and enthusiastic feedback. Of course, the gallerists don't like the way the Vogels buy direct from the artists, often at lower-than-gallery prices, but the artists all want to be in this acclaimed collection.
The film is fantastic and so uplifting. It's a love-of-art story. It made me wonder if there are more great stories about collectors out there. Please share your thoughts.
PS The Vogels did not want to accept money for their collection, but the National Gallery insisted on providing a monthly stipend for them so their retirement years could be more comfortable. But the Vogels aren't interested in taking vacations or moving to a bigger apartment. They're using the money to buy more art!