“I just had these visions of art work, from the OSS through the contemporary war on global terrorism, and if you lined up all these paintings, you’d see the visual history of the CIA, one painting at a time,” he said. “I knew the only artwork at the headquarters was some god-awful ‘modern art’ . . . and tacky Americana prints.”Available online.
Eventually, Kirzinger pitched himself to the CIA as a volunteer who could find the artists, pool private donations to pay them, and research the missions’ scenes to ensure the paintings’ accuracy. The first painting, “Earthquake’s Final Flight,” which depicts a CIA plane in May 1954 under fire over North Vietnam, was installed at the agency in 2005.
“Erik’s vision for the collection ran parallel to our own desire to create a world-class art collection,” said Hiley, the agency’s longtime museum director. She added that the CIA wanted to amass a collection on par with the combat paintings owned by other military branches.
In June 2010, after multiple pieces had been unveiled at the agency, Kirzinger was presented with the CIA’s highest civilian honor, the Agency Seal Medal.