Thursday, October 13, 2005

Abstract Expressionism, Cold War Propaganda, and the CIA

Louis Menand writes in the New Yorker about how the US Government used avante garde art to further America's image abroad during the Cold War. The State Department discovered early on some of the Congressional pitfalls to be avoided.
Cultural diplomacy is a tricky business in a democracy. It’s awkward to promote art officially by claiming that it is free from official constraints, and it is especially awkward if the art is, in fact, unpopular. Cold Warriors in the nineteen-fifties often found themselves in the position of propagandizing for American values by exhibiting art that was manifestly élite, and attacking the Soviet Union for mandating that art appeal to the common man. In 1952, [Museum of Modern Art Director Alfred] Barr wrote a piece for the Times Magazine, “Is Modern Art Communistic?,” in which he tried to argue, in effect, that “democratic” is a totalitarian standard for judging art. He wasn’t wrong, but it meant that a lot of congressmen were behaving like totalitarians.
Congressmen seem to think that behaving like totalitarians is part of their job description. In any case, Menand wrote an interesting article about the government using art by lefties to promote American values overseas.

Thanks to ArtsJournal for the lead.


Blogger TTB said...

Just deleted another spam comment. Where is the Federation when you need it?

And doesn't bin Laden know that spammers are anti-Muslim activists working to turn Mecca into a pig farm?

Thursday, October 13, 2005 at 11:33:00 AM HST  

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