Friday, June 18, 2010

My New Frugal Heros

They aren't "new" fact they are quite elderly, but I just heard about them. This is possibly because I am not now and have never been hooked into the minimalist art scene in NYC.

Anyway, I was watching this film...well, DVD...called "Herb and Dorothy." It came out in 2008, but just made it to me this week.

ANYWAY, Herb and Dorothy Vogel got married in the 1950s and lived their entire married lives in Manhattan on her salary as a librarian while spending his salary, as a postal worker, on art. Wow. They ended up amassing in their 1 bedroom apartment what is perhaps the most extensive collection of minimalist art out there. They had stuff from Warhol, Christo (they are bffs with Christo and his lady Jeane-Claude, even exchanging cat sitting for art). They just kept buying art they liked. Usually from artists who were not yet famous. Many did become famous.

It's amazing. They didn't make much and were living on very small pensions in a TINY apartment crammed with art. Literally crammed. Still, they didn't sell it. They donated it to the National Museum. The National Museum could only handle 1000 pieces. There were 2500 more pieces. So, there are now 50 pieces offered to a museum in each of the 50 states. The National Museum used many many full size moving vans (the semi-trailer kind) to empty the apartment of art. The curator said one of his greatest fears was that once he managed to get it all inventoried so he could present the collection to the board and see if the museum would accept it...that the board might say "no" and it would have to go back. Incredible.

Herb and Dorothy donated to the National Museum as an act of public service. They could have been extremely wealthy if they sold the art, but they chose to donate it. And to donate it to the public. This museum has no admission charge. Anyone can go enjoy the art. (Not all is on display at one time of course.)

What impresses me frugal-wise here is that these folks really enjoyed their lives and art. They saved money in all other areas of their lives so that they could spend money on what was meaningful to them. They still do it! The National Museum decided to give Herb and Dorothy a small annuity to help them live more comfortably in their little apartment now emptied of art. Instead, the Vogels continue to patronize up and coming, as well as established, artists. They still go to art openings. They go twice a year to the National Museum to visit their art collection and view favorite pieces.

They still chat weekly with many important artists. Meanwhile, they also have fish, turtles and cats. People they worked with their whole lives did not know that they were important collectors. They are unassuming, get to know artists and spend according to their priorities. Amazing.

The movie has shots of their apartment. Small. Furnished with tattered items. And brimming with art. They clearly love their simple, frugal, lives.

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