The Black Budget has a Soft Spot for Beauty?
The Abstract Art Collection the CIA Built
The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue offer a thorough examination of a moment in American history when politics and culture—as well as professional expertise and populist taste—clashed, a phenomenon that feels all-too-familiar. This 2013 excerpt is from the Art Newspaper, undated.
by The Art Newspaper, 26 July 2013In the 1990s, a long held suspicion was confirmed: the US Central Intelligence Agency secretly sent Abstract Expressionism and other forms of American art and music abroad in the 1950s and 1960s as part of a propaganda campaign to assert American cultural dominance in the Cold War era.
The first chief of the CIA division spearheading that campaign stated why the operation had to be clandestine: “It was very difficult to get Congress to go along with some of the things we wanted to do—send art abroad… In order to encourage openness we had to be secret.”
The most thorough recreation to date of that doomed project can be seen in “Art Interrupted: Advancing American Art and the Politics of Cultural Diplomacy”, a travelling exhibition jointly organised by three university museums: Auburn University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia (Indiana University is also participating as a venue for the tour, but is not one of the organisers).
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JJS: If powerful people can’t get permission, they just do what they want anyway. So why give them money and the power that comes with it? Instead of granting the power of discretionary spending to politicians, let’s keep that for ourselves and pay ourselves a Citizens’ Dividend. We could spend our share on university tuition, if we chose, rather than grant them state aid, so colleges like the three Southern ones above would really have to cater to the masses and become effective educators. And the CIA and the rest of the military machine might have to hold a bake sale.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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