1945: The end of the Second World War gave way to chaos from which a new world order would emerge. Beyond the military and economic spheres, a new war was taking shape: The America of Truman and Eisenhower was now using culture as a weapon in an ideological war against the USSR.
To do so, the CIA used a new generation of artists working under the banner of abstract expressionism, flying the flag for the free world, freedom of speech, and American economic might, including Motherwell, Rothko, De Kooning, and Pollock. All of them unwittingly enjoyed the backing of the CIA in the middle of the Cold War.
How did the CIA go about deploying this secret weapon?
With all the suspense of a film noir, this film tells how the US intelligence agency secretly financed these painters’ exhibitions abroad. Millionaires such as Nelson Rockefeller, whose mother cofounded MoMA in New York, was a major supporter of abstract expressionism, and many other institutions also played their part.
Through archive footage and contributions from art historians, this gripping documentary reveals how the CIA used anti-democratic methods to safeguard the democratic values of the United States, revisiting a key period in history that has long remained secret.
Direction: François Lévy-Kuentz
Production: Cinétévé for France Télévisions
Available versions: French, English