Several weeks after the Soviet Exhibition opened in New York, the reciprocal American Exhibition opened at Moscow’s Sokolniki Park on 25 July 1959. The art on display was in stark contrast to the heroic socialist realist paintings and sculptures shown in New York. Although American realism was represented in works by celebrated artists such as Andrew Wyeth, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry and Edward Hopper, among the 67 artists featured were a significant number of modernists, including Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Mark Rothko.
The art exhibition caused controversy back home in the United States, as the organisers were castigated for including artists with apparent links to Communism. In Moscow, the work also garnered a mixed reception by Soviet audiences, while Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev responded with characteristic delicacy by commenting that ‘it looks to me like a little boy pissed on the canvas‘.
Image: Crowds viewing the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959. Photographer: F. Goess. Downtown Gallery records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution