Last night on CBS's 60 MINUTES Morley Safer attacked contemporary modern art for the second time. Back in 1993, Safer didn't make any friends with artists, dealers, or collectors when he savaged artists like Cy Twombly, Jeff Koons, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, among others, with the help of conservative art critic Hilton Kramer (he died recently). It was all over-hyped trash, "the emperor's new clothes," according to Safer and Kramer.
Let me be frank. For many years I taught art history and tried to be objective about post-modern styles, but the more I saw in museums (I made a trip to NY every year from 1985 to 2003), the more I realized how bad most of the new stuff was and is. I grew bored with seeing stuff like a bunch of lumber and rope thrown in a corner, as if a worker had forgotten to do anything with it. I watched enough video installations with the same tired "freshness" that I grew to mistrust the medium as well as the message, if there was one.
So Morley Safer's second foray into the rarified world of collecting only emphasized what he had said back in 1993. But this time it was all about the money, the emptiness, the one percenters. Safer spent several hours with the hip crowd at Art Basil Miami, a major art fair that draws private jets from all over the globe. Safer interviewed artists, buyers, and dealers, all of whom came off as shallow, insincere, and from another planet. At first I thought this was deserved.
But then, after talking with my wife, I realized this wasn't just silliness. It was just dead wrong, even sinful. Forgive me for proselytizing, but the world is too full of hurt and need to countenance the kind of mindless greed and lack of caring exhibited in this foolishness of art collecting.