Morley Safer died this week. He had a long and distinguished career on 60 Minutes. He also was the correspondent for a notorious piece that ran in 1996 that raised a bushy eyebrow at the art world as a scam. Hilton Kramer and Brian Sewell provide the appropriate critical unmasking of the fraudulent artists who, Kramer assuredly says at the end, life in dread fear of waking up one day to find the magic spell has broken.
Safer did a follow up piece 14 years later at ArtBasel in Miami. Intellectual honesty might have required him to admit he had it wrong. But that second piece was another self-assured dismissal of Contemporary art. Too bad. Safer, it turns out, had an extraordinary knack for fixating on artists who remain sought after 20 years later.
Watch the segment now. You can play a little game along with the report where you see which works of art Safer mocks and ask yourself if that’s a work by some now-forgotten artist. Then, look at the time stamp to see how long it took you to find an obscure work or artist. It won’t be the Twombly, the Richter, the Ryman or the Wool. Safer stops to chat with a collector in front of Gober and a Felix Gonzales-Torres.
Safer scratches his head—as everyone does—while listening to Jeff Koons explain the meaning of his art works. They happen to do it in front of the single-basketball Equilibrium piece that Peter Brant just sold at Christie’s.