Monday, December 15, 2008
Do you like this story?
IMA - Forefront Galleries - Several well dressed museum attendees browsing the preview opening of the exhibition Collected Thoughts before seeing the documentary Herb and Dorothy in the Toby later in the evening. Lots of mingling and glad handing to be seen, with everyone getting in their hellos to their friends and colleagues. A small film crew is wandering around video taping the Vogel's who are getting a look at the exhibition. I watch and listen. This is a show I have been interested in seeing since first I heard of the Gift the Vogel's so graciously bestowed upon our institution. As I am browsing a small room dedicated to a number of works on paper by Richard Tuttle, I watch and listen as a couple of middle aged women scoff and giggle at the work. Apparently jarred at that thought that these works could be called art. I had a smile on my face, as in this moment I find myself more watching this duo than I am looking at the Tuttle's. I turn to look at another work when one of the ladies exclaims to her friend, "it is obvious that the joke is on all of us... the artist is having one over on us by calling this art" I let out a small laugh as they quickly glanced my way. Oops, I had been caught. I politely smiled with a slight nod of the head in their general direction and slipped in to the larger room to view the rest of the show. This was the beginning of what was to be a wonderful evening.
After viewing the works in the show I headed down to the main floor of the museum and headed on in to the Toby to find my seat for the nights feature documentary. This was my second time to the Toby, my first in which I was to see a film. I must say that the experience was enjoyable on each occasion. The theater began to fill up and if I had to hazard a guess, I would say that there was at least 250-300 people. Not bad for a weeknight. As the film begins the audience becomes silent as they found themselves drawn into the story of these two collectors. Throughout the screening I found it nice to see everyone laughing and enjoying themselves as they were introduced into the world in which Dorthoy and Herb came up in and built their collection. I do not want to tell you too much about the film, as I think everyone should check it out. But in short, here is the story of two unlikely collectors of such magnitude, a postal worker and a librarian, who together amassed one of the most comprehensive collections of works of minimalism, conceptualism, and other sorts of works. These were two collectors who were on the forefront of the times and changes in the art world. Buying works by artists who often were unable to exhibit, let alone show their work. They not only bought works by these artists, but befriended a large number of them. Following their careers for decades. The film does a great job of showing us the passion of this couple, interlaced with stories by the artists and people who know them best. As the film ends, a standing ovation. A symbol of everyones admiration for the Vogel's, their generosity and the inspiration in which they left the room.
Perhaps it is the season and the weather, but the entire time I am experiencing the film and the audience reaction, I am warmed by a sense of holiday spirit. I looked at Herb and thought how he would have made a fabulous Bob Cratchet (played opposite to Alastair Sim in the 1951 Christmas Carol). There is something genuinely sweet and pleasant about their demeanor, you can instantly see why so many artists counted them as their friends. I may have said it before, but what better Christmas gift could the IMA ask for than for this collection of works from the Vogel's. As the theater emptied, I thought about those two women that I had observed earlier in the evening and wondered what they thought now. I'd like to think that after seeing the film that perhaps they went to see those same works again and while they may not understand these works still, they would now give these works a second consideration. The Vogel's didn't simply buy art that looked good over a couch, they bought works that were hard. Hard to understand for most. Hard for these two ladies viewing works today. I imagine what people must of thought about these same works thirty - forty years ago when much of the work was being made. The Vogel's were ahead of the curve. They educated themselves and sought out the newest art wherever they could find it. Visiting galleries and artist studios whenever they had a chance. In all of this and on a fairly modest income, they managed to be recognized as two of the most important and well respected collectors in the art world.
As an artist and as an art lover, I find their story an inspiring one and left the IMA that night feeling good, feeling hopeful. Perhaps one day, I too will find collectors such as these in my life. If you get the opportunity, check out the documentary sometime and be sure to visit the exhibit at the IMA.
Thank you Herb and Dorothy.