Sotheby’s auction house has locked out their art handlers for more than six months, so 60 Minutes runs a special on how people attending Art Basel Miami are spending their money on art Morley Safer doesn’t like. That’s a pretty big story for the Canadian journalist to miss, especially considering he’s actually done some good in his time. Safer did a number of well-respected investigative reports during the Nixon years, and in 1983 famously helped free a man wrongly convicted from prison.
We’re not going to spend much time on the few actual thoughts delivered here—rich people buy ugly cars at fairs too and no one thinks to make a story out of how the experience is so much different than the showroom—but we did put together a summary of Safer’s feature. It goes roughly like this:
- Art fairs aren’t about aesthetic experience. It’s about buying stuff.
- The people who buy art often look weird. Maybe. Safer isn’t sure who’s buying, who’s an artist, and who’s just there to be seen.
- There are some “timeless gems maintaining a quiet elegance” at Art Basel (cue a close up of that garbage Helen Frankenthaler at Ameringer and Yohe), but there isn’t enough of those kinds of works.
- Dealers sell to collectors who buy for love of the art, on speculation, or because it’s an item on their must-have list.