Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Fine Arts

Committee Chair

Begley, John P.

Author's Keywords

Art in Embassies program; The Museum of Modern Art; Abstract expressionism; Nancy Kefauver; Cold war; Pop art


Art in Embassies Program (U.S.); Art and state--United States; Art--Political aspects--20th century


Throughout the 1950s and 1960s New York’s Museum of Modern Art commodified the paintings of Abstract Expressionist artists. By commodifying the artwork, the Museum of Modern Art could then present it as a product of American capitalism thereby making it a powerful diplomatic tool for Cold War diplomacy. This was achieved through the Museum of Modern Art’s curatorial decisions, exhibitions, covert dealings by the Museum’s leadership, and formalist analysis during the period. Formalist analysis is focused on aestheticizing works of art. The State Department’s Art in Embassies Program was directly influenced by the Museum of Modern Art and practiced the same commodification in its curatorial practices for exhibiting not only Abstract Expressionist but also Pop art. This curatorial practice undermined the anti-capitalist goals of both Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.