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.Knott’s right, and we knew it; I touched on the issue myself a few years back.
Aside from the manipulations involved, we have to wonder how deeply and how widely the avant-garde was tainted, and whether it is still tainted. Not that the CIA would promote Kenneth Goldsmith’s uncreative writing in the hope of bringing China to its knees, but let’s be honest: the vitiation of the literary arts serves the moneyed elites as surely as the severing of visual art from its audience served them in the 1950s and ’60s. A people whose most cherished art form is the sitcom is unlikely to rebel, especially against the folks who churn out the sitcoms for them.
Am I the victim of creeping paranoia? Before you decide, read the article.
And in a related story, check out Bob Arnold’s post here: “Keeping Students from the Polls”.