How the CIA Spent Secret Millions Turning Modern Art Into a Cold War Arsenal
What seemed like natural popularity of certain artists was, in part, actually a deliberate attempt at psychological warfare, backed by the US government.
The CIA wanted this art to be global. So it dumped millions upon millions of dollars to be secret patrons of art world darlings like Pollock. Fake foundations, used as CIA slush funds, sponsored international exhibitions. Former CIA operative Tom Braden says it was pretty easy to wedge your way into the art world when you were packing government cash:
“We would go to somebody in New York who was a well-known rich person and we would say, ‘We want to set up a foundation.’ We would tell him what we were trying to do and pledge him to secrecy, and he would say, ‘Of course I’ll do it,’ and then you would publish a letterhead and his name would be on it and there would be a foundation. It was really a pretty simple device.”
This technique—called “long leash” operations—kept the CIA in the shadows as it sponsored massive organizations like the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which had offices in 35 countries, and organized historic exhibitions of Abstract Expressionist art in cities across Europe.
Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’
By Frances Stonor Saunders 22 October 1995
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.
The connection is improbable. This was a period, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the great majority of Americans disliked or even despised modern art – President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: “If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.” As for the artists themselves, many were ex- communists barely acceptable in the America of the McCarthyite era, and certainly not the sort of people normally likely to receive US government backing.
The art world has always been controlled by the rich and powerful.
How Modern Art Serves the Rich
Yet the most troubling examples of the exploitation of art for financial gain are perfectly legal. As Adam outlines, collectors and their agents have continually found creative ways to use their art holdings to defer paying taxes, including the establishment of private museums and foundations, storing artworks in offshore freeports where they can be exchanged without incurring customs duties or VAT, and loopholes in the tax code such as “like-kind” exchanges. Originally set up in the 1920s to aid farmers by enabling them to defer taxes on livestock trades, “like-kind exchanges” are now regularly invoked by art collectors in order to avoid paying taxes on the sale of artworks: So long as a collector uses the proceeds of the sale of one work to purchase another within 180 days, the tax obligation can be perpetually kicked down the road.
Katy Perry’s ‘Illuminati’ and Engineered Modern Art
Jay Dyer September 12, 2014
“The engineering of art was a decision made by the Rockefeller Foundation workers, the Guggenheim family, the Frankfurt School working with British Fabians like Bertrand Russell, and the intelligence agencies like the CIA, which the Rockefellers were instrumental in establishing. Concomitant with the rise of garbage “art” was the rise of feminism and its Rockefeller funding, as well, so they can be seen as connected movements, that culminate in the phony drug and sex “revolution” of the 1960s.”