Herb & Dorothy peers into the lives of the Manhattan art scene's most unpredictable pair of collectors. Herb Vogel, a postal clerk, and Dorothy Vogel, a librarian, aren't the type of people that you'd expect to find at important gallery openings talking the talk with art world giants, but if you ask any well-heeled woman in black, she'll tell you that they possess one of the most respected and vast contemporary art collections in history.
Herb & Dorothy is director Megumi Sasaki's first feature-length documentary after over two decades of freelance television news production, and her background in journalism seems to have informed her approach to the subject. The film is a comprehensive collection of images, video footage and privileged interviews with leading contemporary artists like Christo and Jean-Claude, Lucio Pozzi and Richard Tuttle, but about halfway in, the documentary begins to suffer from its feature-length format. It is as though Sasaki began with a concept for a television news special, extended it to the 90 minute mark and superimposed title headings (Minimalist Art, Language and Art) to generate the requisite momentum.
Despite the lulls, Herb and Dorothy's approach to collecting art is fascinating: they collect art because they like to possess beautiful objects. With Herb's modest salary as the sole budget for purchasing art, the Vogels began building their collection with small, affordable works by unknown artists; with only a Manhattan one-bedroom in which to store their acquisitions, Herb and Dorothy eventually took to keeping the better part of their collection in crates. And what is the point of owning art if you can't look at it? Herb matter-of-factly explains that people buy books they never read. It is Herb and Dorothy's incredible passion for contemporary art and its unique expression through simply possessing that art that energizes the film, and to her credit, Sasaki deftly positions this theme at the film's core.