Kuhn, Still Life with Red Bananas

In 1946, amid a “Cold War” conflict that emerged between the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II, the Department of State embarked on an innovative program of cultural diplomacy. At the heart of this initiative was a project known as Advancing American Art. The program called for the acquisition of modernist paintings by contemporary American artists with the intention of traveling the art through the Latin American republics, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Its objective was to exemplify the freedom of expression enjoyed by artists in a democracy while demonstrating America’s artistic coming of age.

Within months after Advancing American Art began its exhibition tours, controversy over the program erupted in the American media, government forums, and public discourse. Many observers lambasted the paintings selected for the project, and the artists themselves, as un-American and subversive. Several of the artists had left-leaning political views and the collection, by design, largely avoided representational styles. Facing intense disapproval by Congress with the prospect of losing all funding for its cultural programs abroad, the State Department chose to recall the exhibitions and the paintings were soon sold at auction.


Art Interrupted: Advancing American Art and the Politics of Cultural Diplomacy features all 107 works in the exhibition in full-page, full-color reproductions, each accompanied by a descriptive essay. Appendices further lay out the comprehensive picture of the program. This beautifully designed book is 280 pages, casebound, and retails for $65.