The art world is buzzing over Morley Safer’s recent 60 Minutes special, “The Art Market”, itself a follow-up to his controversial 1993 takedown, “Yes… But Is It Art?” (watch it here). That segment was notorious for its lambasting of contemporary art and its practices. Safer was accused of being a philistine for not “getting it.” Back then, Safer challenged the very notion that art titans like Jeff Koons and Caravaggio were actually creating work worthy of the ‘art’ label, and it seems his POV hasn’t weathered much since then.
The 2012 update focuses on how confounding it is that the art market has outperformed the S&P 500. To hammer home his point, he pokes around the mother of all art fairs, Miami’s Art Basel (or as he calls it, “an upscale flea market”), and spends the segment talking to some major players—Eli Broad, Larry Gagosian, Jeffrey Deitch—doting over the predictable old person art (Picasso, Frankenthaler), and hating on anything conceptual (“incomprehensible”). Safer expresses indignation over the boom in prices, yet ignores the other side of the art market—the value that art holds not just for those who buy it, but those who make it and even think about it. Collectors are sponsors, and at the end of the day, it is them, along with galleries, museums, foundations and nonprofits, who allow artists the freedom to practice, and to expose others to their work.