Photo courtesy: CBS News

Photo courtesy: CBS News


You might have caught the airing of 60 minutes this Sunday where Morley Safer poked at the validity of Art Basel. Although I’m sure he aggravated some people with his condescending attitude towards contemporary art, he did make some good points. One quick point is how the language used by the galleries to explain the validity of specific work is often encrypted or simply said, they use difficult vocabulary to run around the subject of whether the art is good or not. Morley described this art lingo as “spilled alphabet soup.” I have always, since my college days, argued that: art is a visual language and that if one needs an essay to accompany their art in order to explain it, then that art is unsuccessful. I remember getting into this same argument with artist Bert Rodriguez about this issue during art class critiques. He argued with the same over used answer that contemporary artist resort to when put in the defense about their art, “As long as the art provokes a response of whether you hate it or love it then it is successful.” That is what Bert and others in my college class would argue. Give me a break! That is all that it takes? With that logic we can infer that if we hated all art in the world then all art would be successful.

Another good point Safer made (well it was more like a proposed question) was “Is there  a Contemporary Art bubble forming and waiting to burst?” Many of the signs are the same that warned us of the real state bubble back in 2007. What are those? First, the common rule of investing “When everyone is going in, then get out! When everyone is getting out, then get in on it.” Back in 2007 everyone wanted a piece of the housing boom. People were purchasing properties not for the American Dream but with hopes of flipping their investment. In other words, greed. Same trend in the Contemporary art market. Investment in art has skyrocketed in the past decade. Last year sales totaled 5 billion dollars. High rollers are speculating about the art work’s future value. They are buying art in hopes of obtaining the next Picasso or Van Gogh not because they particularly like the art work. “A lot of folks are just buying. It’s more like, ‘We need one of these things because everybody’s getting one’ ,” explained Tim Blum to Morley Shafer in the segment.

And just like back in 2007, the public is ignoring the red flags. Although many of us saw the signs of a housing bubble building, we consumers, mortgage brokers etc. took the policy of don’t ask don’t tell. That is the same attitude in the art market. No one can or wants to explain why the high demand for contemporary art in a recession. Listen to Tim Blum further confide in Safer stating “How does this boom (art market sales) keep sustaining itself against all odds? It’s inexplicable. I mean, it really is almost unexplainable. And we don’t even– when we bring it up and wanna– and start– and begin to talk about it, we sorta drop the subject. Because it almost feels like you should just let it keep rolling.”

But the most convincing argument of why contemporary art sucks came via the art itself. Through out the segment I personally did not find one  piece, whether judged by craftsmanship, aesthetic value, scarcity or expressiveness to be successful. The most embarrassing piece was one by Haegue Yang, a Korean artist. It was an installation made up of items found at the dollar store and which were tangled to a clothing rack. The asking price was $33,000. I mention, that was embarrassing because I was watching the segment with my girlfriend’s family and that particular scene made me shameful.  After all, I am an artist myself. Check out the full segment where Morley Safer from 60 minutes, visits Art Basel Miami Beach and pokes an eye at the establishment. Then tell us what you think:
www.cbsnews.com Below is Morley Safer explaining why he dislikes contemporary art.


  1. George Kovach says:

    I have the DOCUMENT that changes the course of art. It is titled “The Theory of ARTISTIC Relativity”. The theory REVERSES THE COURSE OF ART back into art’s developemental stages of realism to abstraction. Currently, for the last fifty years, art keeps duplicating the abstract end of the spectrum over and over again because the art world has put itself in a type of hole of can’t going forward or back. The theory erases this stationary point. It also projects that the “next greatest artwork” is the creation of an entirely new category of art that never has been seen before by COMBINING PAST KNOWLEDGE OF ART. See the FIRST category of art, “Pcychotic Symbolism”, executed according to the theory. It’s all on my new artist web site at http://www.nextgreatestartwork.com to view and read. Click on each picture in the gallery to enlarge and see the theme of each piece of artwork!

  2. Esteban Alvarez-Buylla says:

    if the expectation of contemporary art is to reach a reaction, the sudden smell in a public restroom is contemporary art too.

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