Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Monkey Movie Review

Herb and Dorothy Vogel are a married couple of modest means, he was a postal worker and she was a librarian, who have amassed one of the most important private art collections ever.  They lived modestly, even frugally, so that they could buy the art they loved.  The didn't collect what was 'hot' or in vogue, although many of the artist's work they have collected have since been 'hot.'  They didn't collect what they thought was going to go up in value, in fact they refuse to sell any of their collection.  They simply collected the art that spoke to them, the art that they liked.  And if they took to an artist's work, they collected it rabidly and obsessively. 

In their small NYC apartment art is everywhere, on the walls, the ceiling, stacked up in closets, under the bed, in drawers of chests, in trunks, everywhere.  They collected so much art that they had to get rid of furniture so that they could accommodate it all.  They got all this art by living off Dorothy's salary and using Herb's wages to buy art they loved.

Slowly word got out about their collection and artists sought them out to sell them their work and museums and galleries sought them out to allow them to show all the art they had collected.  After years of living with all that art and the semi notoriety that surrounded their collection of it, the National Gallery in Washington DC contacted them about housing and curating their collection.  They liked the idea of giving their collection to the National Gallery because it's a free institution and the art can't be sold or given away by the Gallery once they take physical possession of it.  So the Vogels allowed most of their collection to be sent to the National Gallery where it will be shown and appreciated.  Both were government workers when they worked and now their art collection will be shown at a government run gallery in perpetuity.

In recognition of the enormity of their gift to the gallery, the National Gallery arranged for the Vogels to get a small annuity to subsidize their pensions and Social Security.  The thought was that the annuity would help them purchase a couch and other furniture for their small apartment now that they had pared down their art collection.  However, the Vogels had other ideas.  They used the annuity to buy more art, which will one day go to the National Gallery.

I loved this documentary about this cute little couple.  These kind of people help restore my faith in human beings.  Here they are living on a modest budget with no children to raise or look after so they spend their money on art.  And it's not the touchy feely accessible kind of art, in many cases it's minimalist, conceptual, and abstract art that is shunned by most collectors, galleries, and museums.  They not only bought what they liked, they championed it.  And slowly over time their opinions mattered and became sought after.  Imagine that, instead of some bloated wealthy fuck like that British advertising millionaire Saatchi setting the standard, it was little old Herb and Dorothy, a postal worker and a librarian.  And I love the fact they they refused to sell any of their collection and that they took steps to make sure it could not be sold after their deaths.  They loved art for art's sake and they are making sure others can appreciate it too.

If more people were like Herb and Dorothy, especially the ones with money, then this world would be a much better place.  Kudos to you Herb and Dorothy and kudos to the makers of this fine film that I highly recommend.  It's sweet, charming, and adorable.


K.Line said...

I've got to see this. I LOVE that story.

gmb said...

Sounds fabulous. Thanks for the head's up, Dr. Monkey.

Blueberry said...

We loved this one too.