Inside RAFF 2013’s opening night party: The who’s who of Toronto’s art scene celebrate the world’s most fascinating art collectors on film

RAFF 2013 Opening Night
RAFF 2013 Opening Night
Photography by Emma Mcintyre

See the photos from RAFF’s opening night »

As it’s getting to be in Toronto, there are so many festivals, exhibits, parties and things to see, that you can’t very well see ‘em all. And while we once would have lamented over the lack of such a problem, we’ve got it now for better or for worse. In order for a working art mind to grow, you have to work hard not to let any potentially mind-opening experiences fall through the cracks, and that’s why despite the weather, I dragged myself out into the cold on Wednesday night for the opening of the Real Artists Film Festival (RAFF) held at the TIFF Lightbox. In its 10th year, RAFF brings some of the best art-related documentaries to the city, this year launching with an excerpted version of Megumi Sasaki’s Herb & Dorothy 50×50, the follow-up to the 2008 original, Herb & Dorothy. The original tells the story of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, the postman and librarian also known as the “proletarian art collectors,” who amassed a collection of almost 5,000 works of contemporary art in their one bedroom Manhattan apartment. Collecting only what they liked, could carry home on the subway and could afford (while living solely on Dorothy’s income and using Herb’s for art), the Vogels amassed one of the biggest collection of post-1960s minimal and conceptual art in the world which includes such lauded artists as Sol LeWitt, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, John Chamberlain, Chuck Close, Mark Kostabi and Charles Clough.

The follow-up, Herb & Dorothy 50×50, follows the Vogels, as they split 2,500 pieces in their collection up with the help of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., to give 50 works to 50 museums in each of the United States. Even in its excerpted form, the film is a pleasure-heavy eye-opener to what is possible when you eschew conventions and follow your passion. The latest film is dedicated to Herb Vogel, who passed away last summer.

And now, because simply waxing poetic about art won’t suffice for a party recap, the glitzy details. RAFF’s opening night drew the definitive who’s who of the Toronto art scene, including It couple gallerist Daniel Faria and Rui Amaral, one of the night’s organizers, who wore equally dapper suits. Toronto’s dapper-est dandy, Bruce C. Bailey, was in attendance as well, wearing a characteristically off kilter soviet-style hat. After the screening, a crowd grew around Dorothy Vogel, who regaled the group with tales of her fish splattering water on works of art. What did she really want to talk about, though? Downton Abbey. Luckily, that’s a topic I know lots about.

RAFF 2013 runs through this Sunday February 24. For listings and more information visit