Art is the Weapon: CIA Funded Abstract Expressionism in the Cold War

Art is the Weapon: CIA Funded Abstract Expressionism in the Cold War

November 9, 2010 11:00 am 1 comment

Jackson Pollock painting

The Independent reports:

The existence of this policy, rumoured and disputed for many years, has now been confirmed for the first time by former CIA officials. Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the “long leash” – arrangements similar in some ways to the indirect CIA backing of the journal Encounter, edited by Stephen Spender. [...]

The connection is not quite as odd as it might appear. At this time the new agency, staffed mainly by Yale and Harvard graduates, many of whom collected art and wrote novels in their spare time, was a haven of liberalism when compared with a political world dominated by McCarthy or with J Edgar Hoover’s FBI. If any official institution was in a position to celebrate the collection of Leninists, Trotskyites and heavy drinkers that made up the New York School, it was the CIA.

Until now there has been no first-hand evidence to prove that this connection was made, but for the first time a former case officer, Donald Jameson, has broken the silence. Yes, he says, the agency saw Abstract Expressionism as an opportunity, and yes, it ran with it.

Full Story: Independent: Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’

See also: coverage of the old rumors from Disinfo and The New Yorker

Image: Jackson Pollock, Lavender Mist, 1950. Photo by Detlef Schobert

1 Comment

  • Bill Whitcomb

    The fiends!!! The CIA has done some pretty sketchy things, from dosing people with psychedelics unawares to attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro’s beard, but even I never thought they’d sink to the level of promoting abstract expressionism!!

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