... Then you'll be stunned when you find out it was supported by the CIA.
They did it to make the point that the United States stood for freedom of speech, even bizarre speech, in contrast to Soviet totalitarianism. It's a goal we find surprisingly holistic after generations of Bond films portraying spy organizations as ruthless killer-protectors.
The means toward that goal had to be secret, ironically, because the American public by and large hated the new art. It couldn't be supported through official channels - they tried. To picture (npi) the backlash, recall the NEA support of Robert Mapplethorpe.
"It takes a pope or somebody with a lot of money to recognise art and to support it". Reading this phrase in the article caused me to imagine a scene in a cave, thirty thousand years ago, featuring another artist and his Pope.
"Thog want to paint more elk on walls."
"Gord want that too."
"Thog have babies to feed, cannot stab real elk when painting spirit elk"
"Gord believe Thog spirit elk bring slow lazy meat animals to tribe area, help everybody, also express ineffable link between human condition and meat animals"
"Thog got to get paid, son."
"Gord have childless brothers who will stab elk for Thog's babies. Thog keep painting."