Is Abstract Art part of a CIA Plot?

Interesting article from the BBC investigates the influence of the CIA on the art world after World War II.  As the Cold War began to heat up immediately after the defeat of Hitler in Germany and with the Russians grabbing a strong hold in East Germany, how did New York replace Paris as the center of the artworld?

Art Prints

An what about this new art-form of Abstract Expressionism, the antithesis of the traditional French Art Academy painting.  From strict formal rules and approval by the academy to no rules and seemingly no skill required.

“The Abstract Expressionists emerged from obscurity in the late 1940s to establish New York as the centre of the art world – but some say they became pawns of US spies in the Cold War.”

Art Prints

Was Abstract Expressionism part of the culture war against the godless communists?  Never before in history had an art movement so rapidly move to the top of the charts and start receiving so much money and attention.

By 1958, “The New American Painting, an influential exhibition organised by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, began a year-long tour of European cities including Basel, Berlin, Brussels, Milan, Paris, and London. The triumph of Abstract Expressionism was complete.”

Consider the war ended in 1944 so the emergence of a new art movement from New York no less to world domination took only 12 years.  Did the CIA whose mission was to promote American freedom against the Soviets and communism have a part in the rise of Abstract Expressionism?  Did they bank roll the exhibits and other wise promote the movement and help it spread around the world?  That’s story in the BBC article which come to no concrete conclusions although has people who were involved arguing both sides.

Photography Prints

In any case the consumerism celebrated in the Pop Art movement that came after Abstract Expressionism seemed even more of a celebration of freedom and the American way especially in contrast to the toil and bread lines of Soviet controlled Russia.  Art as a weapon or as a political expression for a more desirable way of life is a fascinating topic.


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