Modern Art Was CIA 'Weapon'

by Frances Stonor Saunders
The Independent
Nov. 06, 2010

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.

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