For the past fifty years, the Museum of Modern Art has been separating artists from their politics and in so doing sanitizing the history of Modern Art. “Communist Tour of MoMA” connects the history of Modern Art to history of the 20th century Communist movement. The project is based on research conducted at the Museum of Modern Art archives in New York, focusing on Modern artists from the MoMA collection whose careers overlapped with the trajectory of the Communist Party.
MoMA is the site of this investigation because of the complexity of its relationship to the issue of Communism in the context of the Cold War and the East/West dichotomy. During the McCarthy Era, Modern Art became the subject of the media and the government’s anti-communist witch-hunt. In his 1949 speech, Michigan U.S. Congressman George A. Dondero called Modern Art subversive, communistic and a weapon in the hands of the Communist conspiracy and the Soviet Union. He named the Museum of Modern Art a site of Communist infiltration. In response to these allegations, MoMA’s curator Alfred H. Barr, Jr. discursively separated artists from their artworks by stating that, “We (MoMA) are not exhibiting the artists, but their works. And the artist’s political believes are personal matters, distinct from his work, which should be judged on its merits.”
After the McCarthy era and for the remainder of the Cold War, however, the Museum of Modern Art became an institution synonymous with Modern Art as an expression of the individualist spirit of the Western democracy as opposed to the state-controlled “Communist” art of Socialist Realism in the countries of the Soviet bloc.
It is a historical fact that myriad Modern artists were members of the Communist Party or had Communist ties. “Communist Tour of MoMA” reveals these facts. “Communist Tour of MoMA” poses questions about the dialectic between the Modern Artist’s work and his/her own political beliefs, the meaning of Communist Art outside and within the context of the Cold War and the fundamental relationship between Communism and Modernism.