…The centrepiece of the CIA campaign became the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a vast jamboree of intellectuals, writers, historians, poets, and artists which was set up with CIA funds in 1950 and run by a CIA agent. It was the beach-head from which culture could be defended against the attacks of Moscow and its “fellow travellers” in the West. At its height, it had offices in 35 countries and published more than two dozen magazines, including Encounter.
The Congress for Cultural Freedom also gave the CIA the ideal front to promote its covert interest in Abstract Expressionism. It would be the official sponsor of touring exhibitions; its magazines would provide useful platforms for critics favourable to the new American painting; and no one, the artists included, would be any the wiser.
This organisation put together several exhibitions of Abstract Expressionism during the 1950s. One of the most significant, “The New American Painting”, visited every big European city in 1958-59. Other influential shows included “Modern Art in the United States” (1955) and “Masterpieces of the Twentieth Century” (1952).
Because Abstract Expressionism was expensive to move around and exhibit, millionaires and museums were called into play. Pre-eminent among these was Nelson Rockefeller, whose mother had co-founded the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As president of what he called “Mummy’s museum”, Rockefeller was one of the biggest backers of Abstract Expressionism (which he called “free enterprise painting”). His museum was contracted to the Congress for Cultural Freedom to organise and curate most of its important art shows.
The museum was also linked to the CIA by several other bridges. William Paley, the president of CBS broadcasting and a founding father of the CIA, sat on the members’ board of the museum’s International Programme. John Hay Whitney, who had served in the agency’s wartime predecessor, the OSS, was its chairman. And Tom Braden, first chief of the CIA’s International Organisations Division, was executive secretary of the museum in 1949.
EA: Is there a Cervantean influence in this book?
RB: I think all writers who write in Spanish have or should have a Cervantean influence. We are all indebted to Cervantes, in large or small part, but we are all indebted. The genealogy for Nazi Literature in the Americas does not come from there. This book, I’ll give it to you in descending order, owes a lot to The Temple of Iconoclasts by Rodolfo Wilcock, who is an Argentine writer but who wrote the book in Italian.
EA: He’s almost a cult writer.
RB: It’s just that he is an exceptional writer; he is a major writer. He is a writer who, I think, has done nothing but grow since death. Wilcock keeps growing. At the same time, his book The Temple of Iconoclasts itself owes a debt to A Universal History of Infamy by Borges, which is not surprising at all because Wilcock was a friend and admirer of Borges. Borges’ A Universal History of Infamy, too, owes a debt to one of his teachers, Alfonso Reyes, the Mexican writer who has a book I think called Real and Imagined Portraits—my memory is in torpor. It’s just a jewel. Alfonso Reyes’ book also owes a debt to Marcel Schwob’s Imaginary Lives, which is where this all comes from. But at the same time, Imaginary Lives owes a major debt to the methodology and form of certain biographies perused by encyclopedic types. Those are the uncles, parents and godparents of my book, I think, which is without a doubt the worst of the bunch, but there you have it anyway.
i hate when people write about how efficient and powerful capitalism is… it can’t even figure out how to make money off the internet. if matt yglesias can make a living off the internet then turning a profit off of it really shouldnt be that hard. i mean, amazon has trouble turning a profit. what the hell are they doing over there? and how is jeff bezos some great ceo that everyone looks up to? he cant make a profit with amazon!
everything’s getting worse not better
remember that ‘we are the 53%’ stuff? america’s ‘weird’
i hate ‘nerd culture.’ i hate even more when its portrayed as ‘progressive.’ no its just not. its capitalist, misogynistic, entitled, racist, and violent.
Want to hold my cat but he’s outside : (
Getting to that part of the day where I’ve done the same thing so many times I’m starting to feel like I’m losing my mind