Nixon : Art Critic
Papers and recordings released from the National Archives yesterday reveal much about the 37th president and his aides, including his broad disdain for the media, which he calls "the hostile working press" in a 30-page memo to his chief of staff, H. R. "Bob" Haldeman.Other than sounding rather anachronistic for the leader of the free world, Nixon reveals the not infrequent bias against "modern" objects by those who feel rejected by their creators or champions (transference, anyone?). Of course Nixon couched this rejection in terms of political views, but had the Bernsteins of the world embraced his policies, I'm sure he would have been more open to acquiring a taste for "modern" art.
In another memo to Haldeman, he writes that "..those who are on the modern art and music kick are 95 percent against us anyway. I refer to the recent addicts of Leonard Bernstein and the whole New York crowd. When I compare the monstrosity of Lincoln Center with the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, I realize how decadent the modern art and architecture have become."
Here's the complete document (pdf file) in which Nixon, the culture critic, lets loose. I've retyped a few choice bits here [assume all typos are mine]:
January 26, 1970And he wonders why "those who are on the modern art and music kick are 95 percent against us anyway."
From the President
In talking to several people in Philadelphia I heard concern expressed with regard to the Nancy Hanks-Garment operation on the ground that their thrust was to support those activities in the cultural field where were "novel" and broke new ground rather than to put any significant emphasis on the more traditional activities.
This is completely contrary to my views. I do not want to take it up directly with Garment and Hanks, but I want you to.
[...] We, of course, cannot tell the Ambassadors what king of art they personally can have, but I found in travelling around the world that many of our Ambassadors were displaying the modern art due to the fact that they were compelled to because some committee which once was headed up by Mrs. Kefauver and were they were loaned some of these little uglies from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. At least, I want a quiet check made -- not one that is going to hit the newspapers and stir up the troops -- but I simply want it understood that this Administration is going to turn away from the policy of forcing our embassies aborad or those who receive assistance from the United States at home to move int he director of off-beat art, music and literature.