and Dorothy Vogel might be the most significant American art collectors since
Albert C. Barnes. Of course, the minimalist and conceptual art they collected
was worlds removed from the Barnes Foundation’s early modern and impressionist
masterpieces. The Vogels also had very
different ideas regarding the fate of their collection. Through the National Gallery of Art, the
Vogels launched an initiative to donate fifty works of art to a fitting museum
in every state. Filmmaker Megumi Sasaki revisits
the Vogels, documenting their remarkable philanthropic undertaking in Herb & Dorothy 50x50 (trailer here), which opens this
Friday at the IFC Center.
her previous doc, Sasaki told the Vogels’ origin story. Since the 1960’s, the Vogels lived off her
librarian’s salary, using his postal worker’s pay to acquire their
collection. Early adopters of
minimalism, the Vogels were the first collector of many cutting edge
artists. They only bought what they
could afford and somehow fit in their one bedroom apartment.
reaching 5,000 pieces in size, the Vogels eventually decided to bestow their
collection upon the NGA, but given the obvious limitations of gallery space,
they ultimately agreed to the Fifty Works
for Fifty States project.
Representative Vogel Collections in miniature would be donated to
regional museums that would otherwise be hard pressed to acquire such works.
the Vogels’ NGA advisor points out, there is precedent for such a wide-ranging
gift to the nation’s museums. The old
masters collection of five-and-dime store magnate Samuel H. Kress now resides
in forty-one states, which is not the Vogels’ full fifty, but is still pretty
of Sasaki’s follow-up doc grants the Vogels their victory lap, traveling with them
to openings in several states. While
these sequences can get a tad repetitive, it is intriguing to see how each
museum engages with the work in their Vogel packages. For instance, the Hawaiian pieces appear to have
a particularly high degree of white space, which is a challenge for both
curators and visitors, yet they have been notably industrious building
programming around their collection.
viewers also sense the realities of time and age for the Vogels that ultimately
gives the film its narrative structure. Somehow
though, the tone never feels maudlin, paying tribute rather jerking tears. Given the extent of the film dedicated to the
Fifty for Fifty project, the appeal
of Sasaki’s second Vogel doc might be largely limited to fans of the
first. Nonetheless, if viewers are
interested, 50x50 is the only game in
town, executed by Sasaki with scrupulous sensitivity and a good measure of style
(quite so by documentary industry standards).
In fact, David Majzlin upbeat score propels the proceedings along rather
By following the Vogels, Sasaki gives the audience
a pleasant tour of American fine art museums that are often overlooked because
they happen to be in fly-over country.
She also effectively showcases the Vogel pieces, conveying the breadth
and diversity of the collection. One of
the more emotionally satisfying art docs, Herb
& Dorothy 50x50 is recommended for art connoisseurs and fans of the
original Herb & Dorothy when it
opens tomorrow (9/13) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Art Docs, Documentary, Vogel Collection