‘Aggie’ Review: Portrait of an Art Collector by Her Daughter
Early in the documentary “Aggie,” the director, Catherine Gund, asks her mother and subject, the philanthropist and art collector Agnes Gund, about her expectations for the movie.
“I hope that the film will not be seen by too many people,” replies Agnes — known as Aggie. Stay after the credits for a similar moment in which she appears almost oblivious to the project.
“Aggie” recounts her career and good works. She was president of the Museum of Modern Art from 1991 to 2002, and her projects include founding a program to promote arts education in New York City schools; recognizing and championing a diverse range of artists; and selling a $165 million Roy Lichtenstein from her personal collection to start a fund for criminal justice reform.
The mother-daughter dynamic might have given “Aggie” a perspective distinct from other adulatory profiles of Gund. But it’s not clear that the filmmaker had the distance needed to separate interesting material from banal reminiscence. However great Gund’s influence on other collectors and philanthropists has been, and however progressive and righteous her advocacy for racial justice, “Aggie” doesn’t match her originality with an accordingly innovative approach.
There are a few endearing stories, of, for instance, the time someone nearly tossed a trashlike sculpture by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and some insights into Gund’s collecting philosophy. (She prefers acquiring work by living artists and watching them develop.) The overall impression is that Gund’s contributions to the art world, to schools and to fighting mass incarceration will last. But the film still may not be seen by many people.
Not Rated. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. Watch on Film Forum’s virtual cinema.