Hearts, Minds, and Abstract Expressionism

For more on the relationship between government funding and international art collaborations between institutions, check out “Arts and Minds,” an article I wrote for the October issue of The American Prospect. In the article, I examine the new State Department/American Association of Museums program for funding overseas arts projects, through which the U.S. government hopes to win hearts and minds. –S.L. Butler

Peter Gibbs reports in the Nelson Mail: “Curator Anna-Marie White has put together ‘Cold War – Abstract Expressionism from the Suter Collection.’ The scene for the selection is set with an essay which postulates that the American CIA used abstract art as an anti-communist tool in fighting the Cold War. This theory is backed by art scholars and popular writers in magazines such as the New Yorker. The claim is that the promotion of abstract expressionism in post-war Europe helped to indoctrinate western Europeans with democratic ideals. Once European intellectuals saw the freedom with which westerners could express themselves, they would presumably be swayed into thinking democracy was a desirable ideology.” Read more.“Cold War, Abstract Expressionism,” Suter Collection, New Zealand. Continues through August 19.

In his 2005 New Yorker essay about Abstract Expressionism and the Cold War Louis Menand says: “The target audience for cultural propaganda in the Cold War was foreign �lites�in particular, left-wing intellectuals and avant-garde writers and artists who might still have some attachment, sincere, sentimental, or opportunistic, to Communism and the Soviet Union. The essence of the courtship was: it�s possible to be left-wing, avant-garde, and anti-Communist. Look at these American artists and intellectuals, happily criticizing bourgeois capitalism and shocking mainstream tastes, all safely protected by the laws of a free society. In Russia, these people would be in the Lubyanka, or somewhere north of the Arctic Circle.”Read more.

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