Keeping up with new developments in the art world is thrilling, but the task of keeping track of who's new on the scene, what paintings are selling for what and which hot-button topic is replacing "relational aesthetics" can be exhausting. We art lovers take this world so seriously that we fail to observe art on more practical terms. Enter Morley Safer...
In 1993, Safer conducted a now-infamous exposé on the state of contemporary art and its ludicrous self-patronization. "Yes... But is it art?" directly confronted hyper-conceptual art from an outsider's point of view without reservations, giving Jeff Koons a brief moment to speak on his work before Safer declared his explanation "art speak." Well, in the nearly 20 years since Morley's controversial report, not much has changed except the fact that now a piece by Koons could go for nearly a hundred times as much as it did in '93.
The art market continues to grow at an exponential rate despite a shaky world economy, so Safer thought it was a good time for "60 Minutes" to check in. Safer found that an influx of new money is helping the art world stay afloat with a new generation of billionaires fueling the flames of the market that Safer believes largely depends on a system propped up by pretentious critics and curators. Appearing on "CBS This Morning," Morley commented, "When billionaires have bought all the toys they can possibly ever want, they go to art. Why art?" He continued, "Art gives you status. Art introduces you to a social environment that you otherwise would not have access to. All of those wonderful things. You're seen as a patron of the arts, you're sort of the modern Medici."
Safer's now-legendary conversation with Jeff Koons about his piece "Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Two Dr J Silver Series, Spalding NBA Tip-Off)" became the prime example of what Safer called "art speak," jargon that Safer believed not even the speakers fully understood. This prompted Andre Emmerich to comment in the New York Times that his, "smug, smiling, philistine approach was appalling."
For this latest edition, Safer travelled to the fair of excess known as Art Basel Miami Beach. We don't see very much changing in the way of opinion. If anything, the art world has become even more ridiculous and the astronomical prices of works sold at auction will probably prompt Safer to be even more provocative, but it couldn't come at a more crucial time, if we're being honest here. The art world has become crowded with celebrities and suffocated with money, so it seems long overdue for another reality check, even if it is done by a stodgy old white man who is reportedly afraid of women, nudists, and transsexuals.
Check out Safer's report below, and let us know what you think of this program in the comments section. Is this just grandstanding by a smug rube or is he on to something?
You can see his 1993 report below: