Fame – For All It’s Worth

By Kiki Murai

We’re back with another post in our UNCAPPED series. A look at Herb and Dorothy behind the film lens. Click here to read the other posts in the series.

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Hello from New York City! We’re having another gorgeous fall day today. Just. Perfect.

In each of these posts we like to go behind the scenes of one still image from the Herb & Dorothy film(s), and try to get on the filmmaker’s wavelength, understand the inner workings of the films about our favorite art collectors.

One topic Megumi wanted to explore in her second film HERB & DOROTHY 50X50 was the idea of fame.  The illusion of it, its seductive forces, the intoxicated state it lures us into until we no longer feel the intoxication.

As you know from the first film HERB & DOROTHY, the Vogels began meeting artists in their studios in the 50s and 60s and buying their artwork before many of them became famous (or in Dorothy’s words, “when we were young”). Before they became the ‘world-renowned’ Christo and Jeanne-Claude, or the Chuck Close, or Lawrence Weiner that we can only experience in museums.  Before they could pay their rent.

The Vogels exchanged cat-sitting services for a work of art (similiar to how we now barter web design services for a headshot to put on our blogs?), and deals were sealed on works that were not even completed, because Herb insisted it was better that way.  (As in this exchange between Herb and the artist James Siena.)

What is fame, and what are its ramifications? The question has been asked many a time, and of course there’s no single answer. Megumi decided to approach the subject by including a particular artist in the film – a favorite of the Vogels, Charles Clough.

charlie clough at ifc

Megumi and Charlie at recent IFC Center opening

Megumi knew straight away that she wanted to include Charlie in HERB & DOROTHY 50X50. “He is such a kind, warm person,” Megumi says, “I wanted to show his relationship with Herb and Dorothy”, which is more parent and son than collector and artist.

As parents would, Herb and Dorothy knew Charlie early on in his career, and worried for him.

“Whenever Herby would come to the studio,” Charlie shares in the film, “he’d always say ‘I just hope I can see you make it’.”

And to show that they meant it, Herb and Dorothy usually left the studio with one of Clough’s works. They’ve now accumulated over 600 of Charles Clough’s works alone, and he is included in all 50 of the gift packages that have been sent to one museum in all fifty states through the unprecedented Vogel 50X50 gift project.

Charles Clough thanks Vogels for their help at his group show at Metropolitan Museum copy

Charlie with the Vogels in HERB & DOROTHY 50X50

Charlie speaks to us candidly in this scene from the new film, about where he would be if the Vogels were not there to support him throughout his career.

We’re all often quick to judge an artist’s worth by how ‘famous’ they are. While that may not be the most accurate method in determining the quality of an artwork, neither is buying art solely because the artist is a friend.

The Vogels did not have a problem with that.

They were known to be extremely particular in their selections, and though they may have looked at every work an artist had in his or her studio, they only took home the ones they liked. Many artists attempted to give works to the Vogels, which the couple regularly refused.

So what does it say about Charlie that they own over 600 of his works? We know they don’t buy what they don’t like.

“About his work…” Dorothy says in the new film, “it’s so much related to early abstract expressionism, that a lot of other people thought it was maybe old-fashioned. But it’s very fresh-looking and we like it a lot.”

And now, as you’ll see in film and on the map Charlie has in his studio, his works are being shown in every state in America.  When he opened a show in New York City earlier this year, Dorothy attended the opening.


Perhaps not of the Hollywood sort.

But long-lasting? And spread across the United States, from Fargo to Honolulu?

Most definitely.

“We’re very proud of you,” Dorothy says to Charlie.

And Charlie’s reply… here. (The moment is much better on video than paper.)

Whether an artist is famous or not never meant much to the Vogels.

And because of that, they now have two films made about them. Funny how that works.

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Thank you to everyone for spreading the word about our film. We’ve recently passed our 5,000 Likes on Facebook, and are so thrilled. Thank you!

We’re opening in the Los Angeles area this weekend (see the theater list here), and Megumi’s excited to meet you in the City of Angels. Stay tuned for updates!

You have just three days left to see the new film at IFC Center! Go while you can.  Tickets can be purchased here.  

See you at the theater!

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