08 February 2017

The Independent: “Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’”

We wanted to unite all the people who were writers, who were musicians, who were artists, to demonstrate that the West and the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any rigid barriers as to what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint, which was what was going on in the Soviet Union. I think it was the most important division that the agency had, and I think that it played an enormous role in the Cold War.

If this meant playing pope to this century’s Michelangelos, well, all the better: It takes a pope or somebody with a lot of money to recognise art and to support it, Mr Braden said. And after many centuries people say, Oh look! the Sistine Chapel, the most beautiful creation on Earth! It’s a problem that civilisation has faced ever since the first artist and the first millionaire or pope who supported him. And yet if it hadn’t been for the multi-millionaires or the popes, we wouldn’t have had the art.

Frances Stonor Saunders

Fascinating piece of Cold War history – and indeed art history. It doesn’t surprise me at all that an espionage agency would use any tool at its disposal to destabilize an opponent and ultimately win a war. A strong cultural identity is essential when fighting a long, drawn-out conflict; it’s what we need today to counter the rise of extremism; it’s what Europe needs to shape itself into a real, living entity; it’s what China is trying to rebuild to sustain its economic and political rise on the world stage.

Hot stuff: Jackson Pollock

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