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Monday, November 01, 2010

Herb and Dorothy Vogel

There is a very interesting documentary about two people who are the polar opposites of me. Herb and Dorothy were two art collectors living in NYC. Dorothy was a librarian and Herb worked at the post office. They used her salary to pay the bills and his to buy art. Their collection is now kept at the National Gallery of Art.

I enjoy art and visiting museums. I've even created a few paintings myself. But I don't understand how anyone can assess art. It seems to me that these types of judgements are too subjective. Yet Herbs lifetime postal salary was spent on art that he and his wife deemed to be important. In the end others agreed with them. Many of the artists who they supported early in life went on to become famous. Did they know something special or were they two eccentrics who got lucky?

I say I'm the polar opposite because I want to focus on things that can be quantitated. Paintings are simply good or bad. You can look at them, learn about them and enjoy them. A professional career deciding where a modern art painting falls on the genius to crap continuum would be almost purely nonsensical. By using science one can understand the world and even predict certain outcomes.

So how did Herb and Dorothy become famous? I think their NYC location was a part of it. They met artists you just don't meet in Cleveland or Omaha. Devoting an entire blue collar salary for investment increased their odds. In the end, they had their own special brand that lead people to believe in them.

I think of the Vogels like I think of a venture capitalist who focused on Biotechnology. Most of these types failed miserably. A few made it big. Who do we remember?

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