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Berlin exhibition questions CIA's influence on global art scene

IANS  |  Berlin 

A new exhibition in the German capital of is charting out how CIA-front organisations enlisted the art world in a propaganda war between two ideologies, which came to be known as "the battle for Picassos mind", a media report said on Monday.

The exhibition titled "Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold War", is on display at the historic House of World Cultures building until January 8, 2018.

By promoting modern art movements such as abstract expressionism - and artists including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko - as showcases of America's creativity and freedom of expression, foreign intelligence services ended up shaping the modern world's aesthetic sensibilities, the Guardian report said.

Mixing archive pieces and works by contemporary artists, the show criticises the gallery's own role in the Cold War period.

"My belief is that public institutions like mine need to take responsibility for what they do," said Bernd Scherer, director of the House of the Cultures of the World.

"It has to be clear what position you are speaking from."

While the Soviet Union professed its belief in the use of art as a class-war weapon from the start, the US' support for liberal left but anti-communist organisations had been covert.

When the Central Intelligence Agency's methods were revealed by the US media in 1967, it caused a scandal and led to resignations, such as the British poet Stephen Spender stepping down as editor of the literary journal Encounter.

"You cannot overestimate the CIA's intelligence and efficiency: making culture part of their strategy required a genuine artistic sensibility. When you examine the individual measures employed, you quickly end up in a grey zone," the Guardian quoted Scherer as saying.

The centre piece of the exhibition is a display of the more than 20 artfully crafted literary magazines that were financed across the globe via the Congress for Cultural Freedom, such as Der Monat in Germany, Jiyu in Japan and Hiwar in Lebanon.

"It's hard not to admire the CIA's employees for their infallibly good taste," wrote the art critic of Berliner Zeitung.



(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, December 04 2017. 14:16 IST