"Trust Your Eyes and Instinct": Lessons from "Herb & Dorothy"

"Trust Your Eyes and Instinct": Lessons from "Herb & Dorothy"

One of the primary joys of Netflix is being able to see films that you wouldn't get a chance to see in local movie theaters. One of those is director Megumi Sasaki's extraordinary 2009 documentary Herb & Dorothy, now available on DVD, iTunes and Netflix's streaming video. I saw it a few days ago and can't recommend it highly enough.

Herb and Dorothy Vogel--a postal clerk and a librarian--started collecting art in the early 1960s, living on her paycheck while using his to buy art. They lived for their passion--visiting studios and becoming patrons to several artists early in their careers, making a second home of galleries and museums--slowly amassing what is considered to be one of the finest Minimalist and Conceptual Art collections ever seen.

Dorothy's collecting advice? "We buy what we like, what we can afford and what we can fit into our one-bedroom Manhattan apartment."

In 1992, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC asked the Vogels if they could do an inventory of the couple's collection that was stored (and stacked and cubby-holed) in their tiny, rent-controlled apartment. The final inventory of the diminutive couple's priceless collection was over 4,700 pieces and includes work from such art-world luminaries as Warhol, Schnabel, Christo, Chagall, Duchamp and Oldenburg, as well as former Orange County resident Mark Kostabi.

The Vogels ended up donating their collection to the National, receiving a small annuity in the bargain, which they then turned around and spent to re-fill their apartment with even more art.

"Art is not limited to the elite few," says director Sasaki. "You don't have to be wealthy or an art-school graduate to enjoy art. If you are interested in collecting art, you don't have to follow trends or others' advice. Just listen to your own voice. Trust your eyes and instinct. Simply take the time to look, look and look."

Inspired by the Vogels, I went out and purchased a ceramic sculpture called Bond  from Placentia artist Anthony Foo. My partner, Peter, had a stroke last August, and the experience brought us together so tightly that when I saw the sculpture, I felt like I could see my entire life with him encapsulated in the two fragile paperclay towers bound with twine.

My agenda for this column is that by interviewing curators, artists and gallery owners, I'll offer some insight into the thoughts and theories of those producing art locally.  That by reviewing shows of interest, I can encourage people to get up and out to galleries and exhibitions. That you'll invest in art and take it home.

Live with it.

Make it a part of your life.

If you buy art, write me at Rudegrrlla@aol.com and tell me what attracted you to the work and  who you bought it from.

I'll post your stories and pictures of the art you cherish in Art Whore.


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