Coliseum, New York City, USA

The Soviet Exhibition–which not only contained a section with Socialist Realist art but also placed a sculpture of a Soviet worker directly next to a Sputnik satellite–was the result of a new emphasis on cultural exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union in the late 1950s. In January 1958, two years after Khrushchev’s secret speech denouncing Stalin’s crimes, the two nations signed an agreement designed to increase cultural contact and specifically cited the “usefulness of exhibits as an effective means of developing mutual understanding.” At the end of 1958, the USA and the USSR agreed to host large-scale mutual national exhibitions. The Soviet National Exhibition came to New York City in June 1959, and ran until late July.

In the summer of 1959, the (far) better known American National exhibition opened in Moscow (July 25-September 4). It brought well-known representatives of US Abstract Expressionism and other modernist artists to the Soviet Union for the first time, and was followed, in 1961, by the French (1961) National exhibition in the Soviet capital.