Cultural freedom did not come cheap. [Between 1952 and 1969], the CIA was to pump tens of millions of dollars into the Congress for Cultural Freedom and related projects. With this kind of commitment, the CIA was in effect acting as America’s Ministry of Culture. – Frances Stonor Saunders
In July 2012, I wrote:
Did you know the 1950s CIA patronized Abstract Expressionism indirectly? Neither did I! But according to [Lewis] Hyde, the whole story is detailed in a book titled The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, by Frances Stonor Saunders.
I need to read this book.
Thanks to a mysterious sender, the book appeared on my desk a week later. I started reading it right away, finished a few months later, and let it sink in for a few months more. The Cultural Cold War is a dense, difficult, painstakingly-researched book, and it blew my mind.
Because the book was so dense and difficult—Biblical in its litanies of names, dizzying in its quick cuts between poorly-illuminated scenes—I can’t recommend it without reservation. To get a flavor of the weirdness, I’d suggest this (much) shorter news piece by the book’s author, instead: “Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’”. But if you’re looking to thoroughly upend your understanding of art, prestige, and the role of government, and you’re tireless in your search for truth, this is the book for you.