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Thread: Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

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    Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

    Back in my College days I liked to think that modern art was sort of a commie thing. After all, filling public spaces with meaningless art is one of the planks. Surprising, (not), to find our own CIA pushing the modernist art form in order to fight international communism, or so this article states.

    President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: "If that's art, then I'm a Hottentot."


    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- communists 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.
    Modern art was CIA 'weapon' - World - News - The Independent

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    Re: Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

    Quote Originally Posted by Dibbler View Post
    Back in my College days I liked to think that modern art was sort of a commie thing. After all, filling public spaces with meaningless art is one of the planks. Surprising, (not), to find our own CIA pushing the modernist art form in order to fight international communism, or so this article states.

    President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: "If that's art, then I'm a Hottentot."



    Modern art was CIA 'weapon' - World - News - The Independent
    True. However, it should be noted that they were also seeking to bury the more Marxist "Social Realism" art style under an ocean of "abstract" white noise.

    Abstract modern art wasn't threatening in the same way the more Soviet-influenced styles were. It simply didn't "mean" much of anything at all to most people.

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    Re: Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

    If abstract expressionists were working for the CIA then who was funding the Dadaists?

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    Re: Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

    Same with literary and art criticism. Infiltrating the liberal and anti-Stalinist Left intelligentsia was something the CIA was very much interested in.
    Michael J Petrilli-"Is School Choice Enough?"-A response to the recent timidity of American conservatives toward education reform. https://nationalaffairs.com/publicat...-choice-enough

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    Re: Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

    Huh, and I like Pollocks works.

    I thibk anyone who presentw art work's that could be characterized as " modern or abstract " should also be forced to present REAL art.

    You know art that takes talent.

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    Re: Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

    History has something of a cruel sense of humor. The Soviet Union, with their exclusion of the Western media as well as their...ahem...preservation...of their highly trained traditional painters have gifted to the the modern world a resurgence of artistic ideals thought to be long dead. With the removal of the iron curtain numerous Russian artists are enjoying increased celebrity status in an art world that is returning to the traditional.

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    Re: Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

    If accurate, my guess is that the CIA was reacting against WPA supported artists like painter like Diego Rivera, who glorified workers and labor solidarity, and photographer like Dorothy Lange who showed the truth about the USA's treatment of the poor. Especially in the early years of the cold war, anyone who openly addressed issues of racism, classism, suppression of labor organizers, and justice was supected of being a communist. That is because American communists were in the forefront of addressing issues that they considered the inherent flaws of capitalism.

    Howver, abstract expressionism and other non-representational art froms were inevitable after the popularization of photography.

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    Re: Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

    Quote Originally Posted by Fenton View Post
    Huh, and I like Pollocks works.

    I thibk anyone who presentw art work's that could be characterized as " modern or abstract " should also be forced to present REAL art.

    You know art that takes talent.
    Why? Abstract art should be judged on its own merits, not on whether the painter is skilled at other styles.

    The world of abstract art is very competitive, getting in a good gallery or museum requires talent, many fail to make the cut.

    Most, virtually all, of the most successful abstract painters were trained and capable of creating decent representational art.

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    Re: Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

    Quote Originally Posted by Hard Truth View Post
    Why? Abstract art should be judged on its own merits, not on whether the painter is skilled at other styles.

    The world of abstract art is very competitive, getting in a good gallery or museum requires talent, many fail to make the cut.

    Most, virtually all, of the most successful abstract painters were trained and capable of creating decent representational art.
    I would say that getting into a good gallery or museum requires a successful argument that your work is modern and relevant. Skill level is near the bottom of prerequisites.

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    Re: Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

    Fun fact: "Irving Kristol (January 22, 1920 September 18, 2009) was an American columnist, journalist, and writer who was dubbed the "godfather of neo-conservatism."....Kristol was affiliated with the Congress for Cultural Freedom; he wrote in Commentary magazine from 1947 to 1952,...."

    Per the OP's article, the Congress for Cultural Freedom was a front group for the CIA's cultural propaganda efforts.

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