60 Minutes are keen to promote their report this Sunday on Contemporary Art with Morley Safer visiting Art Basel Miami Beach and, in this clip above, taking a little beating from Jeffrey Deitch over the rise in value of art Safer heartily lampooned. Of course, the fact that the art sells for a lot of money has no bearing on whether the art is meaningful, valuable or of lasting importance. (In fact, if 60 Minutes is doing a segment on the art market it’s a good sign that market has already topped.)
What’s more interesting is to look at the original report. Given the passage of time, you might expect to find a string of unfamiliar names, artists whose popularity had proved the trendy dalliance Safer so confidently declares them. In the video below, you’ll see Morley mock a Cy Twombly that sells for $2.1m as mere scribbling done with the wrong end of a paintbrush.
Then we get Hilton Kramer and Brian Sewell spouting the angry dismissives we’re so used to hearing about Damien Hirst today. Of course, the report spends a lot of time with Jeff Koons and his martian-like demeanor. There’s a tour of the Basquiat retrospective with a group of young boys all declaring they could paint better than Jean-Michel, whoever the hell he was.
As the 12-minute segment progresses, an unsettling feeling of deja vu begins to creep over you. Each artist Safer fastens upon—Gober, Manzoni, Gonzalez-Torres and even Christopher Wool—is bigger and more established today than he was 20 years ago. We even get an appearance by Jeffrey Deitch (mocked for his artspeak) looking very young indeed.
For a man who loathes all of this new-fangled non-representational art, Safer has a remarkable eye for the lasting talent. Too bad he didn’t buy when he had the chance.