Our aim in the Cold War is not conquering of territory or subjugation by force. Our aim is more subtle, more pervasive, more complete. We are trying to get the world, by peaceful means, to believe the truth. That truth is that Americans want a world at peace, a world in which all people shall have opportunity for maximum individual development. The means we shall employ to spread this truth are often called “psychological.” Don’t be afraid of that term just because it’s a five-dollar, five-syllable word. “Psychological warfare” is the struggle

for the minds and wills of men.

                                                 -- President Dwight D. Eisenhower

On February 25, 1967, the New York Times exposed Rockefeller appointee and chairman of MoMA’s Board of Trustees, John “Jock” Whitney’s charity trust, the Whitney Trust, as a CIA conduit.[1] The Whitney Trust is one of nearly one hundred and seventy foundations, some bona fide, including the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, through which the CIA filtered money to fund tens of millions of dollars to fight a cultural cold war. They sought to influence the foreign intellectual community by releasing propaganda images of the United States as a free society in an effort to build a stronghold against growth of the Iron Curtain—Eisenhower’s psychological warfare.

Through the intricate web of foundations, the CIA produced media and newspaper publications and sponsored numerous cultural events internationally, including international art exhibitions. The CIA collaborated with MoMA on international art exhibitions and chose abstract expressionism and its artists, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko—both members of the CIA front Committee for Cultural Freedom—Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Robert Motherwell as their weapons.

Abstract Expressionism exemplified freedom of expression, spirit, character, and the true expression of national will[2] -- everything Moscow loved to hate. And the artists who painted it represented independence and freedom. They were rebels, cowboys . . . Americans.

 

[1] Eva Croft: ‘Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War.’ In Francis Frascina ed., Pollock and After: The Critical Debate (Harper & Row 1985)

[2] Saunders, Frances Stonor. “The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters” The New York Press. 1999