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The Art of Soft Power at Expo 67: Creative America and Cultural Diplomacy in the US Pavilion

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At Expo 67 in Montreal, the US government sought to counter negative world opinion by sponsoring a public diplomacy display that emphasized American culture. While US technological achievements were championed in a space exhibit, the bulk of the Creative America exhibition celebrated American popular culture, a break from the typical focus of such displays upon economic and military power. Not only did Creative America celebrate Hollywood, folk art and pop music, it also offered a subtle critique of American mass culture, a particular point of emphasis in the pop art featured in American Painting Now. This embrace of pop art marked a shift in US government cultural diplomacy away from abstract expressionism, an art form supported for its embrace of freedom. In highlighting pop art, American cultural diplomacy emphasized freedom of expression in a different way: the freedom to criticize one’s own society.
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Keywords: American Painting Now; Creative America; Expo 67; US pavilions in world expositions; art and diplomacy; pop art; soft power and exhibitions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: McMaster University

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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  • The Journal of Curatorial Studies is an international, peer-reviewed publication that explores the cultural functioning of curating and its relation to exhibitions, institutions, audiences, aesthetics and display culture. The journal takes a wide perspective in the inquiry into what constitutes "the curatorial." Curating has evolved considerably from the connoisseurship model of arranging objects to now encompass performative, virtual and interventionist strategies. While curating as a spatialized discourse of art objects remains important, the expanded cultural practice of curating not only produces exhibitions for audiences to view, but also plays a catalytic role in redefining aesthetic experience, framing cultural conditions in institutions and communities, and inquiring into constructions of knowledge and ideology.
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