Grab your tinfoil hats!

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Everything you thought you knew is wrong! OK, maybe not everything … Gravity is certainly the same and the government is probably (definitely) spying on its citizens, but here is one myth that is actually TOTALLY TRUE: 

The Central Intelligence Agency secretly used modern art as propaganda during the Cold War! 


Not quite, Rachel Berry. 

Famed American modern artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning were secretly promoted by the CIA and had their art used as a way of proving how creative, intellectually free, and generally cultured the United States was compared to Russia and all those damn commies. 


During the Cold War and 20 years afterward (about 1947 and onwards for those of you who fell asleep in history class) the CIA made a huge push of American art, music, and literature through the very official and vague divisions of Propaganda Assets Inventory (PAI) and International Organisations Division (IOD). Through the PAI and IOD, agents were secretly placed throughout various arts organizations, publishing houses, and even with Fodor guidebooks. 


One: Number 31, 1950 at Museum of Modern Art

The government pushed these former commie-loving artists and artworks with a national tour. Unfortunately, America wasn’t too excited about these silly artists and their paintings that a five-year-old could make. Even the government backing the project didn’t like them, President Truman said, "If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.“ Eventually, the tour was cancelled. 


Former case officer Donald Jameson, has since broken his silence on the operation: "Regarding Abstract Expressionism, I’d love to be able to say that the CIA invented it just to see what happens in New York and downtown SoHo tomorrow!” he joked. “But I think that what we did really was to recognise the difference. It was recognised that Abstract Expression- ism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions.”


My favorite quote of his is, “In order to encourage openness we had to be secret.”

You might be asking yourself, “Did American tax-dollars fund these stupid paintings!?” You bet they did, sort of. The CIA approached rich art-collector types like Nelson Rockefeller, whose mother co-founded the Museum of Modern Art, to help fund exhibits like The New American Painting that traveled to Paris and with another richie-rich type’s help, to London’s Tate Gallery. That last Mr. Moneybags was Julius Fleischmann, who had actually been given money from one of the CIA’s shell corporations to so generously “donate” to promote modern artists.


Black on Maroon by Mark Rothko at the Tate Modern


Read about all the details here.


By: Lauren

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Lauren Dare

Sr. Editor

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