Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Herb and Dorothy

This past weekend, we watched the terrific documentary Herb & Dorothy (here), about the legendary art collectors, Herb and Dorothy Vogel. I came away with quite a few conclusions and lessons about collecting from hearing their story once again (we had of course heard about them before seeing this movie):

1.) Even when the walls of your house look full, there really is room to jam in much more.

2.) If you don't have kids, you can go to a lot of midweek art openings and become happily embedded in the community.

3.) If you don't have kids, there is more disposable income available in your budget for purchasing art.

4.) Collecting as a husband and wife team makes the collecting much more fun. (We already knew this.)

5.) Picking an out of favor (or "emerging") area to collect makes the collecting easier and cheaper (for them it was conceptual and minimal art). The artists who are unknown or under appreciated will be particularly glad to see you.

6.) Buying directly from artists (who become your friends) gets you a better pick of the best of what's available and makes your money go substantially farther. (It will also almost certainly anger the dealers who you are going around.) Coming cash in hand makes the process much smoother.

7.) If you build a huge collection (the Vogels had 4000 pieces), even an institution like the National Gallery cannot (and will not) absorb it all. Better to develop a back-up plan for the ultimate resting place of the artworks just in case. (After the NGA took 1000 works off the top, the Vogels developed the 50x50 plan, where every state in the union gets 50 works from their collection.)

8.) The whole narrative that the Vogels are "unlikely" collectors seems a little insulting/condescending I think. Collectors of all kinds are driven by the wonder of seeing; the Vogels are no different. That they successfully maximized the buying power of their limited budget over a long period of time is a testament to their determination as collectors.

All in, even though it is not photography per se, the film is certainly worth putting in your Netflix queue.

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