Everybody was on the same page

This was a revisionist interpretation of art history, and it had two prongs. The first was the suggestion of actual collusion between MOMA and the C.I.A. The evidence for this has always been largely circumstantial. The man who directed cultural activities at the C.I.A. in the early years of the Cold War, Thomas Braden, had previously been the executive secretary of MOMA. According to Saunders, a number of MOMA trustees were also on the board of the Farfield Foundation, a C.I.A. front. The president of the museum in the nineteen-forties and fifties was Nelson Rockefeller, whose family had supported MOMAfrom the beginning, and who had close ties to the intelligence community and an unabashed commitment to the patriotic uses of art. (It was Nelson who had demanded the removal of Diego Rivera’s murals from the walls of Rockefeller Center, because they depicted Lenin.) During the war, Rockefeller had been the Roosevelt Administration’s coördinator of inter-American affairs; the head of the art section in that office, René d’Harnoncourt, joined MOMA in 1944 and became its director.

What this suggests, though, is simply that the leaders of MOMA, like the leaders of most mainstream institutions in the United States after the war, were anti-Communists. As Saunders acknowledges, there were no explicit arrangements between the government and the museum, and the reason was that there didn’t need to be. Everybody was on the same page. Rockefeller and Alfred Barr, the founding director of MOMA, who, after the war, served as chairman of the painting and sculpture collections, did not have to be encouraged to use American art to promote the nation’s image abroad. They never pretended that they were up to anything else. Barr was a lover of European modernism, but he was on a mission to persuade Americans that theirs was a modern culture—a mission that he pursued by mounting exhibitions on modern architecture and design, and starting the museum’s department of film, headed by the formidable Iris Barry and dedicated to the proposition that Hollywood movies were part of the modern movement in the arts.


But, you know, it’s still a wacky conspiracy theory to say that everyone was on the same page.

6 responses to “Everybody was on the same page

  1. Pingback: Everybody was on the same page | Reaction Times

  2. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/09/20) | The Reactivity Place

  3. Salvian September 24, 2015 at 5:27 am

    The current editor of The Nation is Katrina Vanden Heuvel. Her father was on the board of the Farfield Foundation. 😉

    One writer for the CIA mentions in passing that the Dulles brother at the Agency (whose brother was at State) organized a group to keep tabs on Sen. Joseph McCarthy and feed him disinformation when he was looking for Reds. We know how that fight turned out.

    BSC/MI6/KGB/OSS collaboration, infighting and splitting defined the West. Read “anti-communist” as “anti-Kremlin” or “anti-Stalin” instead, and you might avoid a bit of misinformation.

    • nydwracu September 25, 2015 at 5:36 am

      I’ve mentioned this before, but, with regard to National Review… everyone knows that Buckley was CIA, but how many people know that Burnham, one of the original senior editors, worked for the Congress for Cultural Freedom, after a stint in OSS’s Political and Psychological Warfare division?


      In a later book, The Machiavellians, he argued and developed his theory that the emerging new élite would better serve its own interests if it retained some democratic trappings—political opposition, a free press, and a controlled “circulation of the élites.”

      Jesus. It can always get worse.

      • Salvian October 1, 2015 at 5:00 am

        Bill Casey, former OSS man, was National Review’s founding lawyer. He went on to become CIA director under Reagan.

        Once you cross into “false front” speculation it’s hard to go back. NR was openly pro-McCarthy, Was this merely a ruse, or a sign it was part of a principled, losing faction?

        Look up the internet archive of anolen.com for some other leads. Deeply provocative site, especially for a critical reader capable of questioning his / her interpretation. The author has a few ideas on whether the official history of the CCF (and a lot of other things) can be trusted.

  4. Alrenous November 27, 2015 at 11:21 am

    The amusing thing is apparently anti-communists decided to have a competition with communists to see who could murder their art community and culture more thoroughly. Results inconclusive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: