Yesterday my sister and I went to see Herb and Dorothy, a documentary film that tells the story of Herb and Dorothy Vogel and the multi-million dollar art collection they amassed over four decades. A postal worker and a librarian respectively, they lived on her salary and devoted his to art purchases, all of which they stored in their modest, rent-subsidized one bedroom Manhattan apartment and never once sold for profit. Over time, the dwelling came to resemble the picture I have in my mind’s eye of the Collyer brothers' apartment. Well known among artists and within the art world, the couple--seemingly always together--were regulars at the city’s galleries, museums and openings. Their story has been told repeatedly in the media over the years and, as you may know from that coverage, their collection today is housed in the National Gallery of Art, as well as in museums and galleries in each of the 50 states as part of the 50 Works for 50 States national gift program.
More than their love of art and the artists who created the works in their collection, however, I was struck by their love for each other. Rarely, either in the film or in photos is Herb without Dorothy or Dorothy without Herb. So too was it when this unpretentious pair entered the small Cinema Village Theater on 12th Street after the screening to speak briefly to the audience and answer questions. Their devotion to each other was palpable.
Thank you, Herb and Dorothy, for giving us a wonderful glimpse into your extraordinary life, for so generously sharing your riches with America, and for showing us that love and commitment can survive the decades. In today’s world, it’s easy to forget these important lessons.