For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art - including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko - as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince - except that it acted secretly - the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.
The connection is improbable. This was a period, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the great majority of Americans disliked or even despised modern art - President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: “If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.” As for the artists themselves, many were ex- com- munists barely acceptable in the America of the McCarthyite era, and certainly not the sort of people normally likely to receive US government backing.
Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.
The existence of this policy, rumoured and disputed for many years, has now been confirmed for the first time by former CIA officials. Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the “long leash” - arrangements similar in some ways to the indirect CIA backing of the journal Encounter, edited by Stephen Spender.
* (question mark added by me, not original to the article)
Amazing Discovery of the Day:Vivian Maier was an unassuming French-born amateur photographer who worked as a nanny in Chicago during the 50s and 60s. Two years prior to her death in 2009, a young real-estate agent stumbled upon thousands of her negatives at an estate sale, and purchased them for $400. 26-year-old John Maloof soon realized what he had actually paid for: The life’s work of one of the greatest street photographers the world never knew.
What’s crazy is that this may end up being the most important discovery in the art world that happens in our lifetime. It’s simply mind-blowing, and I am tempted to show this to my Art History professors at UCLA and see what they think about getting her out there into the world.
The photos are powerful, mood-altering, and full of emotion, and we may not even have seen her best work. I am fighting the urge to head to Chicago and help him sort through them.