Tricky Dick as Art Critic


The National Archives knows how to build suspense, releasing juicy tidbits from Richard Nixon’s papers morsel by juicy morsel. The latest batch of missives from the 37th president reveals an aesthetic side to the famously gruff politician, who despised news media and had a “personality problem with the public.” Something of a traditionalist, Nixon railed against the progressive art and architecture promoted by the Kennedy set.

President Nixon’s famous paranoia kicked in with regards to the nefarious arts as well, writing that “those who are on the modern art and music kick are 95 percent against us anyway.”

Other choice quotes:

Demanded that the administration ”turn away from the policy of forcing our embassies abroad or those who receive assistance from the United States at home to move in the direction of off-beat art, music and literature.”

“I also want a check made with regard to the incredibly atrocious modern art that has been scattered around the embassies of the world.”

“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.”

Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, built in 1857 (left), features 14 Corinthian columns on the proscenium; Lincoln Center of New York (right) was built 50 years ago under the leadership of John D. Rockefeller. Architects on the project included Philip Johnson and Eero Saarinen.

The Academy of Music’s neo-Baroque interior (left), Lincoln Center interior (right); the Metropolitan Opera House includes two custom murals by Marc Chagall.

As Regina Hackett writes for Arts Journal, “If Macbeth and his wife were one person, Nixon would be him.” Burn.