Art in Defence of the Rosenbergs

The execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg at sundown on 19 June 1953 was one of the darkest moments in recent US history. The married couple were the only American civilians to be put to death for espionage-related activity during the Cold War, after they were convicted of passing top secret information to the Soviets. Their deaths left their two young sons orphaned. It was … Continue reading Art in Defence of the Rosenbergs

Art of the East German Uprising

As Stalin grew ever more paranoid and unpredictable in the final months of his life, the ailing dictator demanded that Walter Ulbricht’s Communist government in the German Democratic Republic consolidate its control over the country by intensifying the process of Sovietization. In the summer of 1952, land confiscations, tax hikes, and a public pay freeze […]

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An Ambiguous Portrait of Stalin

Anyone who has watched the 2017 satirical movie The Death of Stalin will have a darkly humorous although roughly factual understanding of the events of 5 March 1953, when the Soviet dictator finally met his end. After 3 decades in which ‘Stalinism’ had increasingly dominated all aspects of political and cultural life in Russia and the wider Soviet Union, it would take the country many … Continue reading An Ambiguous Portrait of Stalin

Prisoner Art from Guantánamo Bay

In recent weeks, a small art exhibition in New York has raised thorny questions about the link between art and propaganda, creative ownership, and the possibility of judging a work of art irrespective of its creator. Ode to the Sea opened in October 2017 in the gallery of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The exhibition features 36 paintings, drawings and sculptures created in … Continue reading Prisoner Art from Guantánamo Bay

Brazil’s Bloody Bundles

In the early 1960s, Brazil’s left-leaning president João Goulart made many powerful enemies with his attempts to reduce the exploitative practices of multinational companies, in favour of improving education and labour standards for the Brazilian people. Meanwhile, the US administrations of Kennedy and Johnson were anxious to see Goulart establishing diplomatic relations with Cold War enemies such as China and Cuba, and began to consider … Continue reading Brazil’s Bloody Bundles

St George and the Atomic Dragon

Perched majestically atop his trusty steed, while delivering a death blow with a spear to the contorted monster at his feet, St George appears incongruous with the lofty skyscrapers that rise above him in Manhattan. What could have caused this valiant knight to venture into the concrete jungle? The bronze effigy of St George came to New York in 1990, in the twilight months of … Continue reading St George and the Atomic Dragon

The Street Art of Afghanistan

On International Women’s Day 2017, Espionart takes a look at the work of a female artist who is challenging stereotypes about women in one of the world’s most patriarchal societies. In the Afghan capital of Kabul, the spray-painted image of a shadowy figure, wrapped in a blue burqa, is an unexpected shock of bright colour in the unrelenting grey urban landscape. This image is the work of … Continue reading The Street Art of Afghanistan

Ridiculing the Regime

As communist governments across Eastern Europe floundered in the 1980s, strange creatures began to be seen behind the Iron Curtain. Mischievous little gnomes with cheeky smiles and pointy hats first appeared in the southern Polish city of Wrocław, and then began to pop up on the walls of cities across the country. But despite their comical appearance, these gnomes had a serious purpose – using surrealism as … Continue reading Ridiculing the Regime

Monument to Syria in a Divided Dresden

The row of three upended buses facing the Frauenkirche in central Dresden appears at odds with the elaborate stone building. What could these dirty, disused vehicles have in common with a marvel of 18th-century architecture? But nothing is quite as it seems and, in many ways, these objects hold a mirror to one another, across time and distance. On the morning of 15 February 1945, seventy-two years … Continue reading Monument to Syria in a Divided Dresden