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Authors: Jacob Nordangård

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Individualistic abstract expressionism, by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, was chosen as cultural weapon against Stalinism, and for crafting an image of America as the progressive cultural leader of the postwar world.

During the cold war, when conservative congressmen, communist-hunting FBI, and an unimpressed general public, made avantgarde art by progressive artists with a history of radical leftism less than appreciated in the U.S., the CIA set up an unofficial Arts Council, with museum directors, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, art critics, and magazine editors, for exporting art and covertly funnelling funds for cultural projects overseas.

Many prominent foundations, including the Ford Foundation, the Whitney Museum, and even the German Marshall Plan, were used by the CIA for this purpose. MoMA (led by Nelson Rockefeller) was a key player and started exporting avantgarde art to Europe. In 1940, Nelson Rockefeller had been Director of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, a Government agency that sponsored overseas art shows for propaganda purposes, with MoMA as contractor for these.

The board of MoMA also included William S. Paley, (founder of CBS broadcasting), Julius Fleischmann, (president of CIA’s fake Farfield Foundation), and former OSS member John Hay Whitney (of the Whitney Museum) as Chairman. Another driving force was former OSS agent and architect behind CIA, John McCloy, who also had a prominent position in the Ford Foundation and was chairman of Chase Manhattan.
76
,
77

At this time, the Rockefellers also launched an ambitious program for the corporate buying up of avantgarde art, starting with their own Chase Manhattan Bank. It was given a yearly art budget of $500,000 and resulted in a collection of over 13,000 abstract works, which of course raised the price and status of the genre considerably.

Architecture

The dashing young architect Philip Johnson, who came from an affluent background, personally founded and funded MoMA’s Department of Architecture, and became its curator.

In February 1932, “Modern Architecture: International Exhibition” opened at MoMA, displaying works by architects such as Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, J. J. P. Oud, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Alvar Aalto.
78

The minimalist rectilinear shapes in concrete, steel, and glass were presented as the “International Style” and would after WWII come to dominate architecture across the world, replacing both traditional building methods and regional styles.

After an interlude as overseas reporter 1936–39, where he became enamoured with national socialism at a Hitler Youth rally,
Philip Johnson returned to MoMA,
79
continuing to promote primarily modernist architecture.

In 1988, Johnson curated another groundbreaking exhibition, “Deconstructivist Architecture” – again defining and naming this new, intentionally unsettling and destructive style which has come to dominate landmark architecture ever since – awarding instant fame and status to its architects.
80

Back to the days of the first exhibition, the modernist movement and the International Style suited the Rockefeller brothers’ internationalist aspirations like a glove. It also inspired radically new zoning laws and urban planning models, leading not only to a boxy skyline of rectangular high-rise slivers, but to extensive sprawl and automobile dependency – which also happened to be highly profitable for the oil and auto industries.

The Rockefeller family had an enormous influence, not only on the promotion of the International Style but – more directly – on New York itself by commissioning a long list of prominent buildings, including the Rockefeller University (John D. Sr.); Rockefeller Center, MoMA, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Riverside Church, and The Cloisters (John D. Jr.); Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (John. D. III); Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York (where Nelson was Governor); World Trade Center and One Chase Manhattan Plaza (David).
81

“What David Rockefeller wanted built got built” noted an observant
New York Times
journalist.
82

Robert Moses

Grand building projects in New York were often developed in cooperation with the infamous public official, Coordinator of Construction, Robert Moses through so-called urban renewal project, which meant that the city would expropriate the properties desired by a developer (e.g., a Rockefeller), and had the tenants and small businesses evicted from the area. The Building of Lincoln Center alone resulted in the removal of 40,000 tenants.

According to David Rockefeller, Moses was “authoritarian and ruthless.”
83
This suited the Rockefeller brothers perfectly – as long as it coincided with their own plans. This mutually beneficial relationship, however, started going sour when Moses challenged Nelson Rockefeller.

In 196o, the year after Nelson was elected Governor of New York, he wanted Moses, then 72, to leave his position as
chairman of the State Council of Parks to Nelson’s brother Laurance. Moses had no plans of stepping down from any of his influential posts and tried the threatening-to-resign act that had worked so well before. This time it didn’t.
84

Having provided New York City with well-needed highways, bridges, parks, playgrounds, and housing projects since the 1920s,
Moses’ plans for another highway through the popular Greenwich Village in 1955, did not go down well with the citizens of New York. Jane Jacobs successfully rallied up public support against the project and Moses had to back off.

Surprisingly, in 1958 Jacobs had received funding from Rockefeller Foundation to write her groundbreaking book,
The Death and Life of American Cities
, published in 1961, which further damaged Moses' reputation. The book criticised just the type of ruthless urban renewal that the Rockefeller family had been a major part of, and indirectly inspired all over the United States and the world by promoting modernist city planning with its wide-spread urban sprawl and automobile dependency. However, the main blame landed squarely on Moses.
85

By the end of the 1960s, the conflict with Nelson came to a head. Moses still retained a very powerful position in the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority which Nelson wanted to incorporate into his own empire. Nelson was known as the most ruthless man in politics. Moses didn’t have a chance.

Nelson is a true democrat. He has contempt for
everyone
, regardless of race, color, creed, religion or anything else. (William Farrell,
New York Times
, Albany)
86

Aspen Institute

In 1949, the international think tank, cultural center, and research institute, Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies, was founded in Aspen, Colorado, by industrialist and philanthropist
Walter Paepcke, CEO of
Container Corporation and board member of the University of Chicago.
87

After Paepcke’s wife Elizabeth had discovered the run-down and almost derelict former mining town Aspen in the scenic setting by the Aspen Mountain, Paepcke had a vision of redeveloping it and turning it into a fashionable ski resort and an American cultural center for art, design, literature, and music (with an annual music festival) in a setting of breathtaking scenery and avantgarde architecture and design.
Paepcke’s
friend, Bauhaus architect, graphic designer, and co-visionary, Herbert Bayer (who had made ad designs for Paepcke’s company) was to make a master plan and design many of Aspen’s buildings and art pieces.
88

At the initiative of professor Giuseppe Borgese, Robert M. Hutchins, president of University of Chicago, suggested to Paepcke that a bicentennial celebration of the birth of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe be organised at Aspen, “to honour the great German author as a universal thinker who could bring the world together” and help heal the scars after the war.
89

The 20-day event (including a music festival), held in the summer of 1949, was a success and attracted over 2,000 participants through luminaries such as Albert Schweizer and Arthur Rubinstein. It resulted in the formal founding of the Aspen Institute and marked the start of a yearly summer music festival (in the tent designed by Eero Saarinen, using the off-season ski resort huts for lodging).

The new cultural center was met with enthusiasm in the press:

U.S. CULTURE MOVES WEST WHEN IT’S TIME TO THINK IN THE ROCKIES BRAIN SPA
90

The centre soon developed into Paepcke’s vision of spreading “eternal truths” as ethical guidance for business leaders and offering a platform for leaders in government, education, culture, religion, business, media, and science, to discuss fundamental problems of society and Western civilisation. As Henry Luce Jr. (
Time
,
Life
) suggested, to save the nation’s soil and Soul, you had to “start with the men at the top.”
91
Aspen Institute’s influence on contemporary thinking cannot be overstated. Several UN conferences were held there, and this was where the climate issue was first discussed in the early 60's by solar physicist Walter Orr Roberts, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder
.

Besides private donations and seminar fees, the institute would be funded by RBF, Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation, German Marshall Fund, Kettering Foundation, Lilly Endowment, Exxon, Chase Manhattan Bank, Coca Cola, and IBM. Oil tycoon Robert O. Anderson (ARCO, board member of Chase Manhattan) got involved in Aspen Institute at an early stage and became its president in 1957. Coal industrialist David Koch funded the David H. Koch Building and the Aspen Music Festival campus and later became a board member.

Through other substantial donations Aspen Institute continued to grow, with more research departments, conferences, and programmes. Campuses were established in other states and eventually also in other countries.

The Great Books Program

When founding the Aspen Institute, Paepcke had been inspired by Mortimer Adler’s Great Books Program at the University of Chicago. Professor Adler was the principal coworker of president Robert M. Hutchins. Both dreamt of reforming American higher education; teaching the liberal arts from high school and turning learning into a lifelong personal enterprise.
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The Great Books curriculum featured a list of 100–150 Western classics, from Homer and the Ancient philosophers to Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Swift, Goethe, Hegel, Comte, Galton, Milton, Thoreau, Marx, Freud, Sartre, Pavlov, Trotsky, as well as some of the books of inspiration to those aspiring to reshape the world, e.g. Plato’s
The Republic
, More’s
Utopia
, Bacon’s
New Atlantis
, Hobbes’
Leviathan
, and Malthus’
An Essay on the Principle of Population
.
93

Hutchins and Adler would also hold Great Books seminars at Aspen Institute. Like the many other cultural events and workshops at Aspen Institute, the Great Books curriculum and the book series with selected classics had a profound impact on the mid-century cultural life in the U.S. Versions of the Great Books curriculum is still available at over a hundred institutions of higher learning in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

World Federalist Movement

Internationalism as a solution to all the world's ills dominated both Aspen and U.Chicago. Hutchins, who later went on to head the Ford Foundation, advocated a world federation and world citizenship, and was one of the leaders of the World Federalist Movement, founded in 1947. Together with professor Borgese, he had written a draft for a World Constitution.
94
Hutchins was also involved in the creation of
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The Doomsday Clock

In 1945, shortly after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended World War II, physicist Eugene Rabinowitch and Hyman Goldsmith launched the academic journal
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
. Rabinowitch and Gold-smith had both been involved in the Manhattan Project at the
University of Chicago
Metal Laboratory, where the first chain reaction, on December 2, 1942, signalled the start of
the Atomic Era.
95
Bulletin
writers have included luminaries such as Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Bertrand Russel, Lord Boyd Orr, Stuart Chase, and Max Born. In order to manage the threat they themselves had helped create, the
Bulletin
of the Atomic Scientists
repeatedly advocated for the United Nations developing into a World Government. Editor Rabinowitch clarified how to gain public support for this notion.

If the world government cause is to triumph it will need more than sympathetic endorsement by the majority. People must be made to feel that their own security, freedom, and prosperity, yes their very own survival, depend on the creation in our time of a world rule of law. They must be made to believe that the establishment of a World Government is more urgent than the maintenance of a high domestic standard and as, if not more, practical than the pursuit of a deceptive security by full military preparedness.
(Eugene Rabinowitch,
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
, December 1947)

BOOK: Rockefeller – Controlling the Game
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