The Central Intelligence Agency, Art
CIA Original Headquarters Building
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 premier art museum.
Since its founding 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. Such involvement has raised historical questions about certain art forms or styles that may have elicited the interest of the Agency, including Abstract Expressionism.
Chromogenic print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113 cm), Edition of 7