Now that Andy Rooney has gone to that big grumpychamber in the sky, Morley Safer has taken over the role of irascible clean-up hitter for the doddering team of Bad News Bears that is 60 Minutes. In the final minutes of yesterday’s show, timed appropriately to coincide with April Fool’s Day, Safer filed a follow-up to the infamous 1993 segment in which he poked fun at the world of contemporary art, rolling his eyes at the work of everyone from Cy Twombly and Robert Ryman to Jean-Michel Basquiat (“heaven-sent for hype”) and a bright-eyed up and comer named Jeff Koons. Nearly twenty years later, CBS News sent Safer back to the front lines: Art Basel Miami Beach, where we spotted him last December toward the end of the VIP preview, looking gloomy and flouting the Miami Beach Convention Center’s no smoking policy.
The footage speaks for itself: here is Safer posing under Erwin Wurm’s giant police officer’s cap, there he is lobbing softballs at Larry Gagosian (“This place has become one of the places that someone like yourself have to show at?”), all interspersed with shots of parties, concerts (infernal rock music!), and the occasional graph that depicts the climbing valuation of the art market since Safer last visited. A chat with the whipsmart Guggenheim curator Alexandra Monroe about the likes of Anish Kapoor and Haegue Yang is harvested for “artspeak” soundbites, a row of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits is used for a segment-capping punchline, and don’t even get him started on video art. The conclusion: Safer still doesn’t like this contemporary art stuff, but we did notice one person he seems to be warming up to: Kara Walker. When Eli Broad beams over a recently acquired Walker, Safer refers to her as “a truly gifted young American artist.” Walker is sure to be delighted.