White House Struggles With Hunter Biden Art Sales Ethics
The Biden White House is attempting to address the ethical questions swirling around Hunter Biden’s newfound art venture, as officials reportedly craft an agreement ensuring that the buyers of the scandal-plagued son’s art, which is expected to sell for up to half a million dollars, will remain anonymous, even to Hunter himself.
Hunter Biden is working with Soho art dealer Georges Bergès, who is expected to hold an exhibition in New York this fall and sell Hunter’s paintings anywhere from $75,000 to $500,000. The general lack of transparency, which is already a well-known reality in the art world, has triggered concerns, particularly for the Biden family, which has been accused of using the family name as leverage and engaging in pay-for-play schemes over the years.
In order to avoid these mounting ethical questions, the Biden White House is comprising an arrangement that would leave all buyers of Hunter’s art anonymous — even to the artist himself. According to the Washington Post, the plan will see Bergès determining the price points for the artwork and withholding “all records, including potential bidders and final buyers.”
“The owner, Georges Bergès, has also agreed to reject any offer that he deems suspicious or that comes in over the asking price, according to people familiar with the agreement,” the Post reported.
“This is an absurd solution,” Breitbart News senior contributor and Profiles in Corruption author Peter Schweizer told Breitbart News.
“The only way to address these issues is with greater transparency–not less,” he continued. “Their proposed solution is greater secrecy, not transparency. And they are essentially saying ‘Trust Us.’ Joe and Hunter Biden’s track record on such matters gives us no reason to trust them.”
Former ethics officials for both former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama also appear to be cautioning the arrangement as a bad idea.
“The whole thing is a really bad idea,” Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer to Bush, said. “The initial reaction a lot of people are going to have is that he’s capitalizing on being the son of a president and wants people to give him a lot of money. I mean, those are awfully high prices.”
As the Post noted, “some experts argued that the best protection against influence-seeking would be transparency, not secrecy.”
Walter Shaub, who served as the Office of Government Ethics director under former President Obama, previously said the art venture has a “shameful and grifty feeling to it” and hinted the White House’s plan is not sufficient.
“Because we don’t know who is paying for this art and we don’t know for sure that [Hunter Biden] knows, we have no way of monitoring whether people are buying access to the White House,” Shaub, according to the Post. “What these people are paying for is Hunter Biden’s last name.”
New York gallery owner Marc Straus appeared to balk at the price points set for Hunter’s work, concluding that “nobody would ever start at these prices” for a novice, such as Hunter.
“There has to be a résumé that reasonably supports when you get that high,” Straus said. “To me, it’s pure ‘how good is it and what’s this artist’s potential, what’s the résumé?’ On that basis, it would be an entirely different price. But you give it a name like Hunter Biden, maybe they’ll get the price.”
“My take was [the paintings] weren’t bad at all,” he added, according to the Post. “But there’s a yawning gap between not bad and something fabulous.”
However, the White House has exuded nothing but confidence in this suspected arrangement.
“The president has established the highest ethical standards of any administration in American history, and his family’s commitment to rigorous processes like this is a prime example,” deputy White House press secretary Anthony Bates said.
Bergès, who has some ties to China, did not directly comment on the arrangement, but a woman speaking to the Post on his behalf dismissed it as “nothing unusual.”
Notably, the art dealer’s website does not mention Hunter’s connection to the president, describing him as a “lawyer by trade who now devotes his life to the creative arts.”
But pay-for-play concerns still linger.
“Anybody who buys it would be guaranteed instant profit,” Alex Acevedo, owner of the Alexander Gallery in Midtown Manhattan, told the New York Post. “He’s the president’s son. Everybody would want a piece of that. The provenance is impeccable.”
If not for the Biden family name, Acevedo estimated Hunter’s art would range lower, from $25,000 to $100,000.
Shaub told Fox News last month that Bergès “should disclose the identity of the purchasers” to alleviate concerns of buyers attempting to “gain access to [the] government.” This is not a foreign concern for the Biden family, as Hunter engaged in several controversial international business dealings as his father served as vice president, triggering myriad ethics concerns. Hunter’s work on the Ukrainian oligarch-owned energy company Burisma, where he made tens-of-thousands of dollars per month despite a stunning lack of experience in the energy sector, stands as one of the primary examples of alleged “Biden Five” family corruption, as Breitbart News reported:
One of the most well-known examples of this centers around Hunter’s involvement on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian oligarch-owned oil and gas company, which paid him tens of thousands of dollars per month despite his lack of experience in the energy sector or Ukraine in general. At the time, Hunter’s then-vice president father was the point-person negotiating U.S. policy with Ukraine. After leaving office, Joe Biden later bragged about how he threatened to withhold U.S. assistance to Ukraine unless Ukrainian officials fired a prosecutor who had launched a corruption investigation into the company that had hired Hunter.
That aside, money laundering has already been identified as an issue in the art world, as detailed by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report last year.
“Secrecy, anonymity, and a lack of regulation create an environment ripe for laundering money and evading sanctions,” the committee determined.
“Given the intrinsic secrecy of the art industry, it is clear that change is needed in this multi-billion dollar industry,” it added.
Speaking to Artnet in June, Hunter explained that painting is “much more about kind of trying to bring forth what is, I think, the universal truth.”
When asked what his father, President Biden, thought of his art, Hunter told the outlet, “My dad loves everything that I do, and so I’ll leave it at that.”
Author: Hannah Bleau