- American National Exhibition
In the summer of 1959, the American government set up the American National Exhibit in Moscow, which followed the Soviet Exhibit in New York City earlier that year. With the many displays of the latest “home appliances, fashions, television and hi-fi sets, a model house priced to sell an ‘average’ family, farm equipment, 1959 automobiles, boats, sporting equipment and a children’s playground,” ["The Russian People Can Take a Peek at U.S. Civilization." "Saturday Evening Post," August 1, 1959.] this exhibit was intended to narrow the gap between Americans and Soviets and improve the political relations between them. However, it is important to note that the “exhibition was also a tool of cultural diplomacy against the Soviet Communist Regime” [Kushner, Marilyn S. Winter 2002. Exhibiting Art at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959: Domestic Politics and Cultural Diplomacy. "Journal of Cold War Studies." 4 no. 1: 6. ] as the American politicians wanted to demonstrate the advantages of capitalism to the Soviets. This is evident in Vice President Richard Nixon’s speech on the opening night of the Exhibition on July 24th, 1959 as the congratulates USSR’s Premier Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviets on their advances in astronomy and rocket science, but quickly returns to focus on the United States’ strongpoint, especially the concept of freedom. [Nixon, Richard. Speech: What Freedom Means to Us, July 24, 1959.]
The various displays of the exhibit were all successful in promoting the American way of life as superior to the Communist regime and lifestyle. For instance, the model of the modern kitchen was a great attraction for most visitors and even sparked the infamous “Kitchen Debate.” However, controversy ensued within the U.S. State Department concerning certain American artists whose works were to be displayed in the Exhibit. Considering the fact that some of the artists had been linked to communist activities, “a few right-wing publicists and legislators claimed that communist sympathizers were undermining the reputation of the United States.” [Kushner, Marilyn S. Winter 2002. Exhibiting Art at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959: Domestic Politics and Cultural Diplomacy. "Journal of Cold War Studies." 4 no. 1: 7.] After an investigation of each of these painters and sculptors, Francis Walter, Chairman of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), revealed that 34 of the 67 featured artists had been involved in some Communist organization. [Kushner, Marilyn S. Winter 2002. Exhibiting Art at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959: Domestic Politics and Cultural Diplomacy. "Journal of Cold War Studies." 4 no. 1: 10.] The Committee was prepared to remove these works from the Exhibit altogether, yet President Dwight Eisenhower intervened and allowed for them to be displayed as were originally planned. In order to appease the conservatives, he also decided to add several paintings, which dated back to the eighteenth century, to Moscow. [Kushner, Marilyn S. Winter 2002. Exhibiting Art at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959: Domestic Politics and Cultural Diplomacy. "Journal of Cold War Studies." 4 no. 1: 17.] After all, the American Vice President, representing the United States as a whole, promoted freedom, including free speech, in this diplomatic project in Moscow.
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