Abstract Expressionism as CIA Plot
I realize some people feel that Abstract Expressionism needs some kind of an excuse for its existence, but the following purported connection between Abstract Expressionism and the CIA
seems just bizarre. It comes from a review of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War
by Frances Stonor Saunders
One of the most important and fascinating discussions in Saunders' book is about the fact that CIA and its allies in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) poured vast sums of money into promoting Abstract Expressionist (AE) painting and painters as an antidote to art with a social content. In promoting AE, the CIA fought off the right-wing in Congress. What the CIA saw in AE was an "anti-Communist ideology, the ideology of freedom, of free enterprise. Non-figurative and politically silent it was the very antithesis of socialist realism" (254). They viewed AE as the true expression of the national will. To bypass right-wing criticism, the CIA turned to the private sector (namely MOMA and its co-founder, Nelson Rockefeller, who referred to AE as "free enterprise painting.") Many directors at MOMA had longstanding links to the CIA and were more than willing to lend a hand in promoting AE as a weapon in the cultural Cold War. Heavily funded exhibits of AE were organized all over Europe; art critics were mobilized, and art magazines churned out articles full of lavish praise. The combined economic resources of MOMA and the CIA-run Fairfield Foundation ensured the collaboration of Europe's most prestigious galleries which, in turn, were able to influence aesthetics across Europe.
Art museum directors on the front lines of the Cold War? That sounds like the plot of a Thomas Pynchon novel to me. It also sounds just crazy enough to be true. (via Early Days of a Better Nation
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