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Modern Art Was A CIA Weapon

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posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 03:38 PM
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Pollock
Rothko
Kooning

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


As an artist, particularly one that uses abstract expressionism, I found this to be very interesting. According to the article the CIA promoted Abstract Expression around the world for over 20 years. Artists as Pollock, Motherwell, Kooning and Rothko had there work used as an influential factor during the cold war.
Why did the CIA use these artists and this style?


Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.

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.


The artists themselves were ex-communists, which raises suspicion about why the cia would involve them.
During the 50's and early 60's American opinion of AE art was that it was not art. The idea, it appears, was to flex the notion of American independence and freedom in idea and expression. The ability to break the rules and cut our own nitch upon the global scene could put us in a respectable light, showing that indeed we are a nation of distinctness with the ability to create new and independent patterns for adoration and standards.

As a youngster, I always questioned Pollocks work as art, and though that it looked more like a 5th graders work. When I started becoming an artists though, I found an attraction to the style, in that there was no style, just pure expression, unabashed with little to no intention.
Personally, I connected this with the Japanese/Chines calligraphists, and how they use a zennish, emptying out approach to a piece. I found great pleasure in the process and satisfied with the results. I was blessed to have a solo gallery show last year and did really well. I stuck with black tempera paint and used a variety of brushes and other tools to apply paint. But I digress....


The decision to include culture and art in the US Cold War arsenal was taken as soon as the CIA was founded in 1947. Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the new agency set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations. They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world.

The next key step came in 1950, when the International Organisations Division (IOD) was set up under Tom Braden. It was this office which subsidised the animated version of George Orwell's Animal Farm, which sponsored American jazz artists, opera recitals, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's international touring programme. Its agents were placed in the film industry, in publishing houses, even as travel writers for the celebrated Fodor guides. And, we now know, it promoted America's anarchic avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism.


So not just the paintings, but other art including music(jazz) and animation were used to lift our art scene to distinct and new levels. These American styles still impress me and make me proud that many unique styles emerged during the 40's - 60's. The effort, whether intended or not, seemed to recast what was or was not accepted and eventually admired or respected.

Now the smoking gun:

The US government now faced a dilemma. This philistinism, combined with Joseph McCarthy's hysterical denunciations of all that was avant-garde or unorthodox, was deeply embarrassing. It discredited the idea that America was a sophisticated, culturally rich democracy. It also prevented the US government from consolidating the shift in cultural supremacy from Paris to New York since the 1930s. To resolve this dilemma, the CIA was brought in.

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.

"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.

"In a way our understanding was helped because Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. And so one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy- handedly was worth support one way or another."

To pursue its underground interest in America's lefty avant-garde, the CIA had to be sure its patronage could not be discovered. "Matters of this sort could only have been done at two or three removes," Mr Jameson explained, "so that there wouldn't be any question of having to clear Jackson Pollock, for example, or do anything that would involve these people in the organisation. And it couldn't have been any closer, because most of them were people who had very little respect for the government, in particular, and certainly none for the CIA. If you had to use people who considered themselves one way or another to be closer to Moscow than to Washington, well, so much the better perhaps."

Ya know, this makes sense to me and it kind of gives an additional sense of pride in our innovation and outside of the box intentions and abilities.


"We wanted to unite all the people who were writers, who were musicians, who were artists, to demonstrate that the West and the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any rigid barriers as to what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint, which was what was going on in the Soviet Union. I think it was the most important division that the agency had, and I think that it played an enormous role in the Cold War."

He confirmed that his division had acted secretly because of the public hostility to the avant-garde: "It was very difficult to get Congress to go along with some of the things we wanted to do - send art abroad, send symphonies abroad, publish magazines abroad. That's one of the reasons it had to be done covertly. It had to be a secret. In order to encourage openness we had to be secret."

Ahh, the ole "do it covertly" approach, so that it can get established regardless of popular opinion...


Covert Operation

In 1958 the touring exhibition "The New American Painting", including works by Pollock, de Kooning, Motherwell and others, was on show in Paris. The Tate Gallery was keen to have it next, but could not afford to bring it over. Late in the day, an American millionaire and art lover, Julius Fleischmann, stepped in with the cash and the show was brought to London.

The money that Fleischmann provided, however, was not his but the CIA's. It came through a body called the Farfield Foundation, of which Fleischmann was president, but far from being a millionaire's charitable arm, the foundation was a secret conduit for CIA funds.


www.independent.co.uk...

Well this revelation only gives more creedence to the idea that the CIA does get involved with entertainment, and now I believe they have/are involved with Hollywood too. Art carries a heavy influence within society, so it makes sense that tptb may want to be involved with what becomes popular or not. So what the hell is their intention with artists like Ga Ga and Justin Beiber? Will we look back at them as iconic forerunners of new styles? I hope not!! Surely there are more talented artists and styles to promote that would generate more respect than todays "popular" artists. it makes me wonder if tptb really are trying to dumb us down. Or maybe they are trying to promote what they see as art, yikes! Please world, we are much more than GaGa and Bieber....I promise!!

Well I thought this was an interesting story and I hope you may find it interesting too. I never thought about art as a weapon, other than maybe used for condemning the status quo, such as Banksy does.Banksy

Peace,
spec




posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 03:57 PM
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reply to post by speculativeoptimist
 

I seen articles on this before...the CIA subsidized a lot of dense prose artworldspeak, maybe if it had been autochthonic they would have had better writers...

Like Nietzsche said "Every artist is always the valet of some morality."

I like Pollock for example, but I figure one reason that they would want to promote him and hold him up as profound is that his work would promote introspection among the benighted Commies behind the Curtain who viewed it...they get into that stuff and they will be less efficient worker drones than if they were still just viewing nice Socialist Realism tractors and wheat sheaves...Socialist Realism also rules okay of course...



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:00 PM
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I actually work for the Museum of Modern Art and I am often puzzled by some of the things I see come through.

As an artist myself, I always try to say something relevant with my work and also reach a level of excellence and skill worthy of admiration.

I find that a great deal of the stuff that comes through here is "clever" at best.

if AB EX did anything, it was foster in an area of faux accomplishment. That old "dot on a blank canvas" argument; that the idea expressed in the art is "above your head" or you don't get it. It's bull. Its a fraking dot on a canvas.

Personally I think an artist's role in society is to point out the BS in society and make you think. AB EX was so abstract it was void of any clear and critical social message which is exactly the kind of entertainment TPTB like.

Still not convinced, MoMA was started by a Rockefeller.

K



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:06 PM
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Fascinating topic.

What I want to know is where is my cut?? I've been doing modern abstracts and have not been promoted, paid or otherwise backed. If they want to promote my art, my views on their organization might have to change


In regards to GaGa and Bieber, those are industry cash cows. It is extremely unlikely the CIA has any involvement one way or another with them. They were created for the sole purpose of making money.
edit on 28-12-2010 by pirhanna because: additional response



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:11 PM
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reply to post by pirhanna
 


I'm an artist too, and I think getting grants (and/or commissions to do public art pieces) makes your/one's art suck...all them people are bad juju...better off without it...



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:14 PM
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A complementary aspect of all of this was that from the 40s onwards the American Communist Party's line on art was that the only revolutionary art was "social realism" which was directly in opposition to all abstract art which was Bourgeois and therefore wrong.



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:24 PM
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reply to post by speculativeoptimist
 


Great thread


It makes perfect sense that the CIA would use art as a psychological weapon against the USSR, they used every other medium that they could - music, film, television, radio - everything. They even bought the rights to George Orwells Animal Farm and altered it to fit their agenda.

I have recently been looking into another conspiracy related to art and this has given me another angle to attack it from, potentially. Very interesting stuff!

Cheers



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:28 PM
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reply to post by LiveForever8
 


Animal Farm seems to me like it already fits a CIA/anti-communist agenda...

Or have I been reading an incorrect version my whole life? Do tell...



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:33 PM
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reply to post by LeonDBelfort
 



The C.I.A., it seems, was worried that the public might be too influenced by Orwell's pox-on-both-their-houses critique of the capitalist humans and Communist pigs. So after his death in 1950, agents were dispatched (by none other than E. Howard Hunt, later of Watergate fame) to buy the film rights to "Animal Farm" from his widow to make its message more overtly anti-Communist.
- from link in my first post.

The book is a critique of both capitalist and communist ideologies.

The film was changed to make capitalism more attractive and communism less attractive. It was basically turned into an anti-communism piece.



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:37 PM
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reply to post by LeonDBelfort
 

I like the Nietzsche quote....
I also like your angle and agree too, and wonder if Pollock did have an effect on the Commies perspectives. The new art would indeed offer some type of vision for the people under Communist rule, and a driven and inspired worker is better than the opposite. I learned two new words in your reply, so thanks for the comment.

spec



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:43 PM
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reply to post by speculativeoptimist
 


Delightful, funny, illuminating. Thanks!


...and NO doubt the alphabet agencies use the media for manipulation. It's a given. lol on this one though. Who'da thunk it?



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:43 PM
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reply to post by The Savage Khan
 



Personally I think an artist's role in society is to point out the BS in society and make you think. AB EX was so abstract it was void of any clear and critical social message which is exactly the kind of entertainment TPTB like.

I agree for the most part but would add that the expression of an/the individual is an important part of art also, both for the artist and the world. I support pushing the boundaries and contributing to the evolution of art and expression. Like the Impressionist, new approaches and attitudes can lift us from one paradigm new another new and exciting one. Of course, just the opposite can occur too, but I generally embrace new styles, as they are like a fingerprint to me, unique and personal.
Sometimes part of "getting it" can be not getting it too, which makes art even more subjective, but at the same time, AE seems to bring more objectivity into the scene.

Thanks for the reply,
spec



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:47 PM
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reply to post by pirhanna
 



What I want to know is where is my cut??

Hey is there any more room on that bandwagon? I'd like a ride!

I hope you are right about the cash cow thing, and I hope the de-evolving nature of contemporary art is just what is being promoted and not representative of the real scene. But with such blatant promoting of such shallow art, I am left wondering whether the cia is trying to keep us from deeper thoughts and contemplations....

Thanks for commenting,
spec



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 04:51 PM
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reply to post by LeonDBelfort
 

Hmmm, perhaps it is a double edge sword because while I partially agree, I also think the grants and reach of formal support can sometimes help an individual as well as society. But I guess the intention and selection from a power that be could be scrutinized in today's climate and especially after reading this article. You are right though, the people with money certainly influence what becomes popular or not, let's just hope most of them have altruistic intent.

Thanks for replying,
spec



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 05:26 PM
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Well at least we know why there is no real art institutions in america. As an artist I looked high and low for true, formal art education when I was younger. It is no where to found in this country...infact all classical art training disapears shortly after the 40's. Thanks CIA. Almost all classical art teqniques pre modern art have been lost. Only france and germany have true classical art schools, and I could never afford to go there.

I honestly find modern art to exemplify communism, as the unskilled "every man" can be a modern artist as long as he gets drunk enough to splatter a canvas with his feelings. It's sad, but commercial art is the only bastion for the skilled artist....but who wants to create propaganda for the elites?



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 05:26 PM
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reply to post by LiveForever8
 


Thanks for the reply LF, and I would be interested in seeing your discoveries too.
Let me know if ya do a thread...

Peace,
spec



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 05:27 PM
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reply to post by soficrow
 



Delightful, funny, illuminating. Thanks!

I thought so too soficrow, glad ya duggit!

Thanks for the reply,
spec



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 05:33 PM
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i knew there must be some kind of conspiracy as to why people accepted trash like this as art.



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 05:38 PM
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reply to post by LordBaskettIV
 

Well "real art" is always subjective, but in the classical sense, I agree, and not only are the classical styles less emphasized, but it seems art altogether is being minimized over here. Art is always one of the first things cut in budgeting efforts, and imagination seems to be a dwindling asset for us humans.

I would again to refer to value obtained from less classical stances though, as in the Impressionists and post- Impressionist movements, including cubism. I think part of the force moving us away from classical styles has to do with independence and the spirit of trying something new. The term art covers a lot of area which includes less monumental or divine pieces perhaps, but I don't know if there is a specific intent behind the propagation of today's styles or if it just how things are these days.



I honestly find modern art to exemplify communism, as the unskilled "every man" can be a modern artist as long as he gets drunk enough to splatter a canvas with his feelings.

I hear ya on this, but I also wonder about the accuracy, because the ability for self expression seems to transcend the communist idea, giving some power to the individual, allowing them to think outside of their box, so to say. One thing is for sure, art is still the closest representation of truth, imo, and I hope it continues to be cultivated by/with some soul.

Thanks for the reply,
spec



posted on Dec, 28 2010 @ 06:14 PM
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reply to post by speculativeoptimist
 


The only observation I could make about the OP's examples are that they do not limit or confine ones imagination.
Now artists like Salvador Dali might have had a foot in the door of the CIA. Many of those Surrealistic paintings are true "portals to the mind" of the observer. Maybe a more accurate critique of modern art is that it could be categorized as "shallow"?



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