The dominance of anti-communist ideology in 1950s’ America caused the disenfranchisement of artists who maintained a commitment to the social function of art. Driven to seek display opportunities outside the United States, these artists were drawn to the USSR, where state support for socially-engaged art provided an appealing alternative. The re-emergence of official channels for Soviet-American cultural exchange inspired artists such as Rockwell Kent, Anton Refregier and Victor Arnautoff to initiate unofficial exchanges under the auspices of two Soviet Friendship societies: the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship in New York and the American Russian Institute in San Francisco.
On Friday 9 May 2014 ESPIONART author, Julia Tatiana Bailey, delivered the following lecture, based on documents held in the Russian state archives and collections across the United States. This presentation uncovers and contextualizes exhibitions of American art in the USSR during the late 1950s and considers how American social realist artists were coopted as propagandists for the Soviet Union.