February 8, 2011 By

CIA Uses Modern Art as a Weapon in the Cold War

download (2)The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used American modern art as a weapon in the cold war. CIA encouraged and supported American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years; but in a covertly manner due to the fear of public hostility.

The existence of this strategy has been confirmed for the first time by the former CIA officials. Unknown to the artists, the art was secretly promoted under a policy known as “long leash”. The decision to include culture and art in the US cold war arsenal was taken as soon as the CIA was formed in 1947.

Another important act was setting up the International Organisations Division (IOD) as Tom Braden as the first chief. It was this office which subsidised the animated version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which sponsored American jazz artists, opera recitals, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s international touring program thus promoting Abstract Expressionism.

Tom Braden explained the objective of IOD to unite all the people who were writers, musicians and artists and also to demonstrate that the West and the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any rigid barriers as to what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint, which was what was going on in the Soviet Union. “In order to encourage openness we had to be secret” he said.

Attempts were made to support the new American art like the state government organizing a touring international exhibition in 1947 titled Advancing American Art. It caused outrage and the tour had to be cancelled.

According to a former case officer, Donald Jameson, that Abstract Expression- ism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylized and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions.

Since abstract expressionism was expensive to get exhibited, millionaires and museums were approached. Most prominent among them was Nelson Rockefeller, the president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was one of the biggest supporters of Abstract Expressionism which he called “free enterprise painting”. His museum was contracted to the Congress for Cultural Freedom to conduct most of its important art shows.

The arts were displayed in everywhere in the marble halls of banks, in airports, in city halls, boardrooms and great galleries. Those pieces were more like a logo; a signature of their culture which they wanted to display everywhere that counted. The art works included the works by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and others.

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