Last night, nearly 20 years after he first attacked the contemporary art world on 60 Minutes, Morley Safer returned to the subject in an episode of his newsmagazine. The result was pretty underwhelming.
Mr. Safer shot the program last December at Art Basel Miami Beach. “This is where the art trade’s carefully constructed mask of Olympian high culture begins to crack, and the underside of a booming, cutthroat commodities market is revealed,” he says, and adds, “There’s very little sense of an aesthetic experience here.”
Art is expensive, the television journalist reveals, and wealthy people buy it. Viewing art at fairs is sometimes unpleasant. Some art is good, but most of it is bad. (Surprisingly, Mr. Safer is a Kara Walker fan: “a truly gifted American artist.”) It’d be nice if Mr. Safer had a more expansive view of art—or just more curiosity about it—but there’s nothing here that’s going to make anyone too upset.
There are, however, plenty of guest appearances by various art types, like New York/Brussels gallerist Barbara Gladstone, Eli Broad (“the one-percenter of one-percenters,” quips Mr. Safer) and Los Angeles gallerist Tim Blum, who shares: “We’re from Hollywood—we’re in the acting game. It’s theater. This is all theater.”
Larry Gagosian also makes an appearance and takes his own distinctive approach to handling Mr. Safer. At first, the dealer apparently just ignores him. “At least say hello!” Mr. Safer calls over during a tour of the fair with a natty, friendly Jeffrey Deitch. And then—just watch the clip.
And now there’s even more of Mr. Safer for you to enjoy, below.