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Exhibiting Art at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959: Domestic Politics and Cultural Diplomacy


In 1959 the United States Information Agency coordinated the American National Exhibition that was sent to Moscow. Included in the displays of American culture, science, and technology was an art exhibit that was intended to highlight the broad range of American painting and sculpture and, by doing so, the freedom of Americans to express themselves as they desired. Chosen by a jury of respected art museum directors, artists, and art professors, the exhibit became embroiled in a controversy instigated by Representative Francis E. Walter, the chair of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Walter charged that more than 50 percent of the artists represented in the exhibition had prior Communist affiliations. He attempted to recall the exhibition from Moscow and convened congressional hearings on the matter. Although the hearings detracted from the use of cultural diplomacy in the Cold War, Walter failed to block the exhibit.