Your weekly briefing from the home of secrets

Art voyeurs

Artists and spies are voyeurs at heart, prying observers into the secret self. Some painters and sculptors take the craft a step further, incorporating cameras or even spy tradecraft. Banksy was inspired by Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks. Sophie Calle stalked a stranger in Suite Vénitienne. Meet the other top artists who - quite literally - practice the art of espionage.




Operation Animal Farm

Richard Nixon’s Watergate ‘plumber’ E. Howard Hunt ran the CIA’s Psychological Warfare Workshop in the 1950s, buried in the innocently-named Office of Policy Coordination. One of Hunt’s assets was Carleton Alsop, an undercover agent at Paramount Studios, who had a tricky mission convincing George Orwell’s widow to sell the film rights to Animal Farm for propaganda but he had a secret weapon: Clark Gable. 



Art secrets

Did Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code actually stumble onto something? An Italian researcher claims that Mona Lisa’s eyes hide microscopically painted numbers. Caravaggio may have hidden an underground Christian emblem in Supper at Emmaus. Hieronymus Bosch surreptitiously painted sheet music on a character’s derriere in The Garden of Earthly Delights. Bring your magnifying glass. SPYSCAPE’s cryptic art secrets will confound and amuse.




The artistic spymaster

Celebrated Franco-German artist Charles Duvall exhibited with acclaim at the National Museum in Cairo in the 1950s - even Egypt’s Minister of Culture bought two paintings. The ‘artist’ was actually Israeli spymaster Shlomo Cohen-Abarbanel (above), a Mossad officer disguised as a bohemian painter to recruit Arab agents, with paintings that hid his thrilling spy story.



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The art of disguise

Much like a Mission Impossible mask artist, CIA officer Jonna Mendez fabricated highly deceptive disguises for secret agents in some of the world’s most hostile locations. In one particular mission on foreign soil, Jonna found herself face to face with a notorious terrorist - and, despite her cover, he seemed to be onto her.




Operation Bullwinkle

FBI agent Robert Wittman's undercover mission involved retrieving a Rembrandt stolen from Sweden's National Gallery. Finding the criminals would be dangerous, however. Wittman needed to descend into Europe's criminal underworld in a high-stakes hunt to retrieve a priceless treasure.



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