The Independent ran a story about fifteen years ago that I missed entirely (thank you for finally enlightening me with a link, LOML) about loathed abstract impressionist painter Jackson Pollock being a propaganda tool of the CIA.
I finally found the reason for Pollock's inexplicable popularity; he was a tool of the CIA in it Cold War battle to prove to the Soviets that the U.S. wasn't a cultural wasteland composed of yokels who couldn't appreciate art. The agency funded exhibits and shows of abstract expressionism like Pollock's through an operation called "long leash." The point was to demonstrate to the world that the U.S. was capable of appreciating even the most avant garde art; if Pollock's work could appear popular, then we like all art and are hence superior to the Communists in every way, not just most ways.
Ironically, the plan backfired for awhile. The problem was America was actually paying attention to art at the time. The CIA's artificial assertion of abstract expressionism into popularity caused a public outcry against it from within America, including a famous declaration that Pollock's work certainly wasn't art from the American president at the time, Harry Truman, who apparently wasn't clued into the scheme.
The Independent's article on the operation is worth bookmarking.