American National Exhibition

The American National Exhibition (July 25 to Sept. 4, 1959) was an exhibition of American art, fashion, cars, capitalism, model homes and futuristic kitchens that attracted 3 million visitors to its Sokolniki Park, Moscow venue during its six-week run.[1][2][3] The Cold War event is historic for the Nixon-Khrushchev "kitchen debate" held first at the model kitchen table, outfitted by General Electric, and then continued in the color television studio where it was broadcast to both countries, with each leader arguing the merits of his system,[4] and a conversation that "escalated from washing machines to nuclear warfare."[5]

American National Exhibition
Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev at the American National Exhibition, July 1959
DateJuly 25 to Sept. 4, 1959
DurationSix weeks
VenueSokolniki Park
LocationMoscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
Motivediplomacy, capitalism, ideology
Budget$3.6 million
ParticipantsKey figures in mid-century American art and design including artists Jack Levine, Isamu Noguchi, Hyman Bloom, Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper and designers Charles and Ray Eames, Buckminster Fuller and Herman Miller.

But the event is equally renowned for its art exhibition, which included such celebrated artists as sculptors Robert Laurent, Ibram Lassaw and Isamu Noguchi and painters Hyman Bloom, Jackson Pollock and Edward Hopper in an art show coordinated by the United States Information Agency (USIA). Prior to the exhibition, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) threatened to remove many of the artists who had been accused of links to communist activities. After President Eisenhower intervened, however, the exhibition went on as planned.[6]

Interpretations of the event are mixed. Some called the event a success because it humanized both countries, leading to better relations between them.[7] Some also note that the event resulted in "a landmark contract to mass-manufacture Pepsi in the Soviet Union," creating new business opportunity, as well as a better relationship. But others argue that "[a] year later, the Cuban missile crisis brought both sides to the brink of nuclear war, and ties didn't begin improving until the 1970s."[7] Meanwhile, liberal critics characterized the exhibition as an American Cold War "propaganda strategy."[8]

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