“Herb & Dorothy 50×50,” a follow-up to filmmaker Megumi Sasaki’s enchanting and often moving 2008 documentary “Herb and Dorothy,” is a more reflective, slightly mournful work about a final chapter in the lives of two remarkable people.
It’s also about the way passion becomes a legacy over time, influencing the lives of others. In the case of Herb and Dorothy Vogel, a couple of retired civil servants who managed to amass a huge collection of minimalist and abstract art for decades on modest salaries, a legacy has the impact of a supernova.
In “Herb & Dorothy,” Sasaki captured the Vogels gathering all 4,000 paintings, drawings and objects created by renowned artists (and stuffed into their one-bedroom New York apartment). They donated everything to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Sasaki’s sequel picks up the story after the National Gallery decides to break up and disseminate the massive collection to museums in all 50 states. (Each institution receives 50 works.) The film follows the elderly Herb and Dorothy as they dutifully make appearances in as many cities as possible, attending receptions, listening to speeches, shaking hands.
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The affable Dorothy does her part, but the once-loquacious Herb is now largely silent, sunk into his wheelchair and resigned to the hoopla. It’s a sad sight, but part of the film’s point is that life is already going on without the Vogels, whose generosity has given new life to American galleries currently struggling to survive.
As with the 2008 film, a nice bonus of “Herb & Dorothy 50×50” is a chance to see a lot of the once-avant-garde art that so captivated the Vogels in their prime. Thanks to their vision, a lot of people can now do the same in person.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org