Art and Diplomacy in Franco’s Spain

The Pact of Madrid, signed on 26 September 1953, brought the United States into a controversial alliance with Spain’s fascist government, ruled over by General Francisco Franco. Since the end of World War II, and the defeat of its Axis collaborators, Spain had been largely isolated from the international community and formally excluded in a UN resolution of 1946. But the deepening Cold War presented … Continue reading Art and Diplomacy in Franco’s Spain

Warning of the Cold War Horse

The life-size effigy of the horse stands alone in a windswept field in Jefferson County, Colorado. But this is no pettable pony. The Cold War Horse is a warning that something sinister has occurred on this remote plateau, about 15 miles north-west of Denver. Cast in fiberglass, steel and resin, the sculpture depicts the horse cloaked in a bright red hazmat suit, with a grey respirator strapped over … Continue reading Warning of the Cold War Horse

Exhibition: Monster Roster

While I was in the American Midwest last month, I couldn’t resist making the journey out to the University of Chicago to see the latest exhibition at the Smart Museum of Art: Monster Roster: Existentialist Art in Postwar Chicago. The exhibition focuses on the work of a close-knit group of artists working in the Windy City between the late 1940s and the mid-1960s. The artists, … Continue reading Exhibition: Monster Roster

Japanese Painters Protesting the Cold War

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States in August 1945 not only signalled the end of World War II, but also announced the start of the nuclear age which would be a defining aspect of the Cold War. The widespread revulsion in Japan at America’s actions would sit uncomfortably with the country’s reliance on the West for protection against the rise of communism … Continue reading Japanese Painters Protesting the Cold War

Cheerful Collages of Mushroom Clouds

Terrified by the news that the Soviet Union had tested its first nuclear bomb in August 1949, the United States decided to up the ante – by going thermonuclear. On 1 November 1952, the world’s first H-bomb, codenamed Ivy Mike, was detonated on the Pacific island of Elugelab. The island was instantly transformed into a cloud of ash that reached 27 miles into the sky, and all vegetation within the path of … Continue reading Cheerful Collages of Mushroom Clouds

Recommended: Zimmerli Art Museum

New Jersey is the unlikely home of the world’s largest collection of Nonconformist Soviet art. Since 1991 the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, has hosted Norton T. Dodge’s incomparable collection of underground art, smuggled out of the USSR between the Khrushchev Thaw and Glasnost. The incredible story of the economics professor who became the saviour of unofficial Soviet art is the subject … Continue reading Recommended: Zimmerli Art Museum

Exhibitions of the Month: From Germany to Lenin

This month sees the closure of the British Museum’s chronicle of Germany, timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Germany: Memories of a Nation is an ambitious retrospective, attempting to tell 600 years of history through objects in a single room. The country’s difficult Cold War history, divided between the Soviet-backed German Democratic Republic and the Westernised Federal … Continue reading Exhibitions of the Month: From Germany to Lenin

The CIA Comic Book Airdropped Over Grenada

Operation Urgent Fury, the controversial US-led invasion of Grenada, concluded with a decisive victory for the United States on 15 December 1983. The Reagan administration claimed that this action, the country’s first major military operation since the end of the Vietnam War, was launched in response to appeals for help by Grenada’s neighbouring islands. However, it has also been widely argued that the campaign was … Continue reading The CIA Comic Book Airdropped Over Grenada

Recommended: Cold War Bunkers – East and West

Recently the public got its first glance inside Albania’s most important Cold War era bunker, located just outside the Albanian capital of Tirana. Built 100m below ground between 1972 and 1978, the top secret complex boasts 106 rooms over five storeys. It also features a bedroom with red satin sheets for former communist dictator Enver Hoxha, as the bunker was intended to house the government … Continue reading Recommended: Cold War Bunkers – East and West