I’ve often wondered who funded modern abstract art. When I look at a bunch of random colors splashed on a canvas I ask myself, “Who the fuck would buy this? I could do this and I suck at art!” As it turns out modern abstract art, like so many other terrible ideas, was secretly funded by the United States government:
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.
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.
The existence of this policy, rumoured and disputed for many years, has now been confirmed for the first time by former CIA officials. Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the “long leash” – arrangements similar in some ways to the indirect CIA backing of the journal Encounter, edited by Stephen Spender.
This is why the history of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was titled Legacy of Ashes. Only an agency as stupid at the CIA would promote something like modern abstract art and call it a viable strategy against the Soviet Union (which must have been laughing its ass off when we used modern abstract art as proof of American creativity).
Not only did this strategy accomplish nothing of value but it also inflicted us with, well, modern art. I feel as though we’ve all suffered greatly because of this CIA idiocy.