WORKS FROM THE MMK COLLECTION


The Central Intelligence Agency, Art
CIA Original Headquarters Building
, 2003/2007
color photograph
94, 9 x 113,9 x 3,2 cm
plate: 16,6 x 11,4 cm
edition 6/7+2A.P.
The Fine Arts Commission of the CIA is responsible for acquiring art to display in
the Agency's buildings. Among the Commission's curated art are two pieces (pictured)
by Thomas Downing, on long-term loan from the Vincent Melzac collection.
Downing was a member of the Washington Color School, a group of post World
War II painters whose influence helped to establish the city as a center for arts and
culture. Vincent Melzac was a private collector of abstract art and the Administrative
Director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.'s premiere art
museum. Among Melzac's many contributions to the CIA is a bronze bust of
President George H.W. Bush, sculpted by Marc Mellon, located in the Original
Headquarters Building.
Since the founding of the CIA in 1947, the Agency has participated in both covert
and public cultural diplomacy efforts throughout the world. It is speculated that some
of the CIA's involvement in the arts was designed to counter Soviet Communism
by helping to popularize what it considered pro-American thought and aesthetic
sensibilities. One well documented example of their cultural involvement was the
1967 exposure of CIA funding, through the Congress for Cultural Freedom, of
Encounter Magazine, a well respected outlet for U.S. and European intellectuals. The
Congress for Cultural Freedom, established in 1950, sponsored numerous journals,
conferences of western intellectuals, art exhibits and books. Such involvement in
cultural diplomacy and CIA sponsorship has raised historical questions about certain
art forms or styles that may have elicited the interest of the Agency, including
abstract expressionism.
Aquired 2007
Inv. Nr. 2007/78
MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main
Gift of the artist
picture credits:
© Taryn Simon
Photo: Axel Schneider
Taryn Simon
* 1975 in New York, NY (US)