The CIA’s ‘Secret’ Art Collection

For decades, it has been rumoured that the CIA’s art collection has hidden meaning.

Finally, photographs of the collection are accessible to the public for the first time allowing us to make up our own minds.  Political propaganda or 'just' art?

CIA Art Collection
Black Rhythm by Gene Davis

Over the years a number of articles focused on a project by Oregonian artist Joby Barron, which grew out of Barron’s interest in the CIA’s covert promotion of Abstract Expressionism as propaganda during the Cold War. Barron became frustrated when her attempts to access information about 29 abstract paintings which hang on the walls of Langley from the Washington Color School were denied.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, she exhibited representations of these paintings in her 2015 exhibition, Acres of Walls.

Long held as rumor, it’s now agreed that in the 1950s and 1960s, the CIA helped fund and promote the work of unwitting American Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning to demonstrate the freedom of expression in the US.

Howard Mehring, “Untitled” (1959)

Led by front organizations like the Congress for Cultural Freedom, these efforts were part of the CIA’s Cold War strategy of promoting the non-Communist left. In the Soviet Union, it was implied, such avant-garde artists would’ve been thrown in the Lubyanka.

The CIA continues to protest its innocence: “We don’t hide our art collection. We’re not trying to keep it out of the media,” CIA spokesperson Glenn Miller said.

“It’s not classified in any way whatsoever."

The CIA’s Secret Art Collection

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For decades, it has been rumoured that the CIA’s art collection has hidden meaning.

Finally, photographs of the collection are accessible to the public for the first time allowing us to make up our own minds.  Political propaganda or 'just' art?

CIA Art Collection
Black Rhythm by Gene Davis

Over the years a number of articles focused on a project by Oregonian artist Joby Barron, which grew out of Barron’s interest in the CIA’s covert promotion of Abstract Expressionism as propaganda during the Cold War. Barron became frustrated when her attempts to access information about 29 abstract paintings which hang on the walls of Langley from the Washington Color School were denied.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, she exhibited representations of these paintings in her 2015 exhibition, Acres of Walls.

Long held as rumor, it’s now agreed that in the 1950s and 1960s, the CIA helped fund and promote the work of unwitting American Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning to demonstrate the freedom of expression in the US.

Howard Mehring, “Untitled” (1959)

Led by front organizations like the Congress for Cultural Freedom, these efforts were part of the CIA’s Cold War strategy of promoting the non-Communist left. In the Soviet Union, it was implied, such avant-garde artists would’ve been thrown in the Lubyanka.

The CIA continues to protest its innocence: “We don’t hide our art collection. We’re not trying to keep it out of the media,” CIA spokesperson Glenn Miller said.

“It’s not classified in any way whatsoever."

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