The CIA of America has been reported to have used art to assist with the dismantling of the Soviet Union in the 20th century. Operation “long leash” was put in place to provide real funding for Artists to help them spread their own unique brand of wisdom that counteracts the logic behind communist rule.
The Soviet view on art was hyper controlling, with only particular themes and messages allowed, thus finding ways of communicating fresh perspectives was a hot topic for many years. Big name artists Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, and Willem de Kooning were among the many people directed to bring soft power to the Soviet shores.
During the 50s and 60s, abstract modern art was fuelled by direct CIA funding and toured around the world. Although the movement was unpopular in the states, including with its then President Truman, the message was in place that creativity and inspiration could only be born from the cultural freedom of the West. The middle finger to communist controlling mentality provided a much needed kick-start to the will of the old Union's citizens.
In 1947, when the Central Intelligence Agency was founded, the decision to use soft power was made. Providing a route for information and emotional learning via the demonstration of liberty and new culture seemed a perfect way to get into people's heads and open their minds. Some say the CIA invented Abstract Impressionism, a form of art made popular by their funding. Others however believe that they didn't invent it only allowed it a platform in order to have it more attainable by those in perceived artistically dry places.
Perhaps the art itself wasn't the main focus, just a medium for the personalities of the artists themselves to speak about their ideas on how a nation needs to be organised and run. With typical left wing ideologies, a trend that still runs today with the world of modern and new art forms, it was perhaps thought that interest in the people behind the paintings would encourage learning about new ways of thinking.
It has also been shown that the CIA worked with an organisation called American Friends of the Middle East, founded in 1951 to find links and ways of culturally developing the area and to provide real informational networks between the two areas. In the book America's Great Game, author Hugh Wilford explains how the AFME funded culture in the mid-east including lectures, student exchanges, and exhibitions. In the 70s, AFME changed its name to AMIDEAST.
It was thought that the intellectuals who took interest in the cultural demonstrations and networking would take what they learned and include it in their writing and art themselves. From diplomats to writers, the middle eastern intelligentsia were exposed to numerous relevant and enlightening displays. It's thought that the artists themselves were unaware of the links with the secret services.
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