The CIA Has Quietly Been Buying Abstract Art For “Training Purposes” and We’re All Suspicious

Having nice decor around your workplace can actually be a pretty important factor to how well you do your job. Plenty of studies have been done to reflect the value of an attractive workplace, in that it tends to create a better work ethic and more comfortable feeling in its employees.


It probably comes as no surprise then the list of thousands of organizations that have commissioned their own artwork for their offices includes one of the most important ones found within the United States government; the CIA.

James Rexroad

It all began back in 1968, during the height of the Cold War (and arguably the busiest period the CIA has ever worked through). Vincent Melzac, an art collector (as well as a catfish farm owner, salon chain magnate, and Arabian race horse breeder) was contacted to loan a series of 11 paintings to the CIA, all of which were by artists associated with the Washington Color School, a post-war movement based in DC, known for their stripes, polka dots, and color fields on canvas.


The paintings would stay on loan for nearly 20 years until Melzac sold them to the CIA himself, and while his estate has continued to lend and take back plenty of other paintings from the organization, the original 11 still hang in the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

A replica set of the original collectionJames Rexroad

Melzac’s collection is now only one of several housed within the CIA, which begs the question; what is it the CIA likes so much about abstract art?!

Turns out, the answer’s actually a little more complicated that you might have thought…

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