‘Aggie’ Review: Portrait of an Art Collector by Her Daughter

At the beginning of the documentary “Aggie”, the director, Catherine Gund, asks her mother and her subject, the philanthropist and art collector Agnes Gund, about her expectations for the film.

“I hope the film will not be seen by too many people,” replies Agnès — known as Aggie. Stick around after the credits for a similar moment in which she seems almost oblivious to the project.

“Aggie” chronicles her career and her good works. She was president of the Museum of Modern Art from 1991 to 2002, and her projects include creating a program to promote arts education in New York schools; recognize and champion a wide range of artists; and selling a $165 million Roy Lichtenstein from his personal collection to create a fund for criminal justice reform.

The mother-daughter dynamic might have given “Aggie” a perspective distinct from Gund’s other adulatory profiles. But it’s not clear that the filmmaker had the necessary distance to separate the interesting material from the mundane reminiscence. However influential Gund is on other collectors and philanthropists, and however progressive and just as his advocacy for racial justice is, “Aggie” does not match his originality with a correspondingly innovative approach.

There are some endearing stories, for example, the time someone nearly threw away a trash can-like sculpture of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and some insights into Gund’s collecting philosophy. (She prefers to acquire works by living artists and watch them evolve.) The overall impression is that Gund’s contributions to the art world, to schools, and to the fight against mass incarceration will endure. But the film may still not be seen by many people.

Aggie
Unclassified. Duration: 1h32. Watch on the Film Forum virtual cinema.

Norma D. Ross