ESPIONART at 1: A Year of Hot Art / Cold War Stories

As ESPIONART celebrates a year of Hot Art / Cold War stories, here are some of the highlights:

The quest for the best (and worst) in Cold War art has taken us around the world and back again, from the Caribbean islands of Cuba and the Dominican Republic, via the Eastern European strongholds of Poland and Romania, through the Middle Eastern states of Iraq and Iran, and on to Vietnam and North Korea.

We’ve seen how things can get a bit mixed up, from Lenin in the style of Abstract Expressionism to Nixon in the style of Socialist Realism.

And we found out how Pablo Picasso put his own communist spin on some of the biggest moments of the Cold War, from the Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, to the timely demise of Stalin (or is that a woman with a moustache?).

We’ve discovered that some unlikely Cold War organisations were secret art collectors, including NASA, the US Department of Defense and the US Navy.

And we’ve seen how the Cold War left behind some pretty weird stuff, from missile-shaped madonnas in San Francisco to alien-shaped monuments across the former Yugoslavia.

We were also introduced to that elusive species, the artist-spy: including the British art historian who became a KGB spy and the KGB spy who became an American painter.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom (and genocide and nuclear armageddon). There have been light-hearted moments: as with the Czechs’ gritty determination to paint a pink tank in Prague; when Andy Warhol gave Chairman Mao a glitzy makeover; the shirtless showdown between Khrushchev and a apoplectic dissident artist; and when Brezhnev and Honecker got up close and rather-too-personal on the Berlin Wall.

And if that’s not enough here’s the one about the space-travelling dog.

What were your favourite ESPIONART stories? Why not take a look through the archives and let us know your personal highlights in the Comments.

And don’t forget to sign up for plenty more Hot Art / Cold War stories over the next year.

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