Morley Safer Collecting Works of Art Abroad
Morley Safer was a beloved and respected Canadian-American reporter, broadcast journalist and long-time correspondent for CBS news and 60 Minutes. He joined CBS in 1964 as a well-known foreign correspondent from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. His experience served him well, as he began reporting in Vietnam during the war and later opened the Saigon bureau for CBS in 1965. During his stint overseas, Morley began collecting Chinese and Southeast Asian Art in times of rest and recreation.
In 1967 Morley was responsible for the first groundbreaking broadcast by an American network inside Communist China. Posing as a Canadian tourist interested in archaeology, he was able to film ‘Morley Safer’s Red China Diary’ with his British cameraman John Peters using a home movie camera. He depicted the everyday lives of Chinese citizens during the Cultural Revolution. Despite many tense moments during this trip, the pair successfully kept the 16 mm film hidden safely in their clothes. One can only infer that Morley’s knowledge of Chinese art may have proved helpful during this project.
Morley began to form his collection though studying artifacts in museums, engaging curators and honing his eye. These trips acted as a temporary escape from the conflict. He described his time in these institutions as a ‘private withdrawal from the war’ and regularly visited the Hong Kong museum, where he expanded his knowledge and formed a friendship with the curator. During visits to the museum in Saigon, he was often accompanied by his cameraman Ha Thuc Can, who later escaped the fall of Saigon and established himself as a successful art dealer. Morley sensibly collected small, transportable pieces on his travels and was particularly enamored with the pure, elegant forms of early Chinese pottery. His passion for Asian works of art never waned. Although two-thirds of his collection was formed during his time overseas, he continued to collect throughout his life.
Stair is honored to offer a selection of works from ‘The Collection of Morley and Jane Safer’ in our September 7 sale (lots 22, 80-100). We would like to extend a special thank you to Jane Safer for providing us with fascinating insights and the background of the collection.