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'Herb and Dorothy': You Can't Spell Heart Without Art

Herb and Dorothy Vogel at the National Gallery. They amassed a valuable collection of contemporary art over the years on a modest income.
Herb and Dorothy Vogel at the National Gallery. They amassed a valuable collection of contemporary art over the years on a modest income. (Fine Line Media)

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Getting artists like Siena to agree to on-camera interviews was easy, Sasaki says, because "when we say 'Herb and Dorothy,' it brings a smile." (The film mentions that not everyone in the New York art world embraced the tiny couple with an open heart. Some gallery owners were peeved when the Vogels made "studio sales," or bought directly from artists rather than through dealers, who would get a cut of the money.)

The National Gallery of Art has about 1,000 works from the Vogel collection, which it acquired for a small sum. In April, the gallery announced a national gift program called "Fifty Works for Fifty States." It will distribute 2,500 more works from their collection throughout the nation, with 50 pieces going to a selected art institution in each of the 50 states.

The Vogels visited the National Gallery on their 1962 honeymoon. It's "where I got my first art lesson," Dorothy says. They like that the museum doesn't sell its art and that anyone can see it free.

Sasaki considers "Herb and Dorothy" a love story above all else. Now that Herb has a hard time walking long distances, both of them have stopped going to galleries and museums. "It's something we share and do together," Dorothy says. "Since he can't get around, I don't go myself."

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, famous for their large-scale environmental installations such as 2004's "The Gates" in New York's Central Park, have been friends with the Vogels for almost 40 years. The Vogels collected their first Christo/Jeanne-Claude work -- a collage of the 1971 Colorado project "Valley Curtain" -- in exchange for taking care of their tabby cat Gladys. The Vogels are animal lovers and own 19 turtles, lots of fish and one fluffy cat named Archie.

"[The scenes of] Dorothy and Herbie in the home with their cat, there's a lot of humanity there," Christo says. "It's another dimension of the film. This part of the film is very inspiring."

The 5 p.m. screening of Herb and Dorothy tomorrow is sold out; tickets are available for the 4:30 p.m. show on Saturday. $10. AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. For tickets, visit http://www.silverdocs.com; call 877-362-7849 for information.


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