There’s an obvious human-interest angle on Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, the NYC couple who spent 30 years amassing a world-class collection of contemporary American art on the salaries of a librarian and a postal worker. But Japanese-raised local documentarian Megumi Sasaki steps back and lets them tell their own tale, supplemented by testimony from the artists they befriended when they were all young, broke and driven—such as Chuck Close and Christo.
The couple met at a dance in the late 1950s: he, the Manhattan-born son of a garment worker; she, a library-science student from Elmira, NY. They married in 1961, took painting lessons together and bought their first piece of art: a small sculpture by John Chamberlain. Decades later, we see them donating their massive collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Just cataloging their holdings evokes a crazily-packed circus clown car: Drawings, canvases and sculptures keep pouring out of the Vogels’ modest one-bedroom apartment as though it’s some kind of bottomless pit.
Herb and Dorothy are adorable enough, but Sasaki’s documentary really shines when she gives center stage to the grateful artists whom they helped nurture. When Italy’s Lucio Pozzi calls Herb a truffle-hound, he’s not being snide.