The prodigal son – Hunter Biden’s new art façade

The prodigal son – Hunter Biden’s new art façade

Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, is releasing, along with a gallery in NY, his artwork with estimated to cost up to $500,000. There are some concerns with his art being sold for money laundering, and that he is using the Biden name to raise prices.

We explore the development of his artistic endeavours, the potential inflation of his art, possible allegations for fraud, and how the White House and the Republican party are responding. 

As stated by Georges Bergès Gallery, ‘‘A lawyer by profession, Hunter Biden now devotes his career to the creative arts, bringing a myriad of experiences to producing powerful and impactful works. His paintings range from photographic to mixed-media to abstract works on canvas, yupo paper, wood, and metal. He incorporates oil, acrylic, ink, and the written word to create unique experiences that have become his signature’’.

Although he claims to have experimented with the arts since childhood, it has taken just under half a century for Hunter Biden to disclose his artistic affiliation and creeping into the art market.

Working with the Georges Bèrges Gallery, Biden is preparing to host two events – a small exhibition in September in Los Angeles and another one in New York during October. His works on both paper and canvas will be priced between $75,000 and $500,000.

The Controversy

Many opponents to Biden’s endeavours have argued how an upcoming artist could have an asking price of $75,000 this early in his career. However, it’s been suggested his Father’s fresh inauguration and the prestigious name has had an impact on his asking price.

According to Joan Kee, a professor in Art History at the University of Michigan, ‘‘It’s pretty obvious that Hunter Biden’s works would not sell for these kinds of prices were he not the son of the current sitting president’’.

The Head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) under President Obama and briefly under Trump, Walter Shaub, has been another sceptic behind the ethics of Biden’s artistic pursuits.

In a tweet that has now been deleted, Shaub argued that “Hunter Biden should cancel this art sale because he knows the prices are based on his Dad’s job.” He continued: “Shame on POTUS if he doesn’t ask Hunter to stop. If that fails, he should ask that the names of buyers be released & pledge to notify us if any buyer ever meets with admin officials.”

Criticism has also come from Richard Painter, the Chief of Ethics lawyer to President Bush, who commented that “The initial reaction a lot of people are going to have is that he’s capitalising of being the son of the president (…) I mean, those are awfully high prices.’’

Jen Psaki, the White House’s press secretary, has declined to make any specific comments on the criticisms that Hunter Biden is receiving. However, she did defend the administration’s agreement with Georges Bergès Gallery:

‘‘All interactions regarding the selling of art and the setting of prices will be handled by a professional gallerist, adhering to the highest industry standards. And any offer out of the normal course would be rejected out of hand. And the gallerist will not share information about buyers or prospective buyers, including their identities, with Hunter Biden or the administration, which provides quite a level of protection and transparency.”

Some believe that the buyers’ of Biden’s art might expect these large sums of money in order to show political persuasions and favours, rather than for its aesthetic value.

For this reason, the White House has announced that an agreement with Hunter Biden that the identities of the buyers will be anonymous.

White House press secretary, Jen Psaki on transparency regarding Biden’s art sale

Following this, the owner of the gallery that represents Biden has stated that any offers that seem suspicious or that come above asking prices will be rejected.

In an interview at Nota Bene, an art podcast, Hunter Biden was asked to respond to the accusations that he was using his father’s position to enrich himself. To this comment, Biden responded with: ‘‘Other than f— ‘em.’’

The interview continued with Biden expressing what his art meant to him, and what an important moment he was living through this opportunity.

“I could just stay in my studio and paint for myself — and I ultimately do do that — but it’s kind of exciting to know that there’s an audience, and for that audience to be able to have its own interpretation of what that painting means to them.”

Previous controversy

This is not the first time that Hunter Biden has been accused of unethical behaviour. An investigation of Biden’s tax affairs was launched in 2018, to examine whether he or his associates were violating money laundering laws in deals with foreign countries.

The investigation on Biden was clearly directed by Trump and his lawyers, who wanted to amplify allegations of corruption before the election.

In 2017, Biden began working on securing a deal with CEFC China Energy to invest in US energy projects. One of the issues that have been investigated in this matter, was the 2.8-carat diamond that Biden received as a gift from CEFC’s founder and former chairman, Ye Jianming.

It was alleged by the New York Post, that an email from Biden in 2017, indicated that he was receiving an annual fee of $10 million from the Chinese oil tycoon.

Jianming was arrested in 2018 by the Chinese authorities on charges of bribery.

Hunter Biden has acted as the lawyer of Patrick Ho, an associate of Ye Jianming, and Gabriel Popoviciu, a Romanian businessman. While a case against Popoviciu accusing him of corruption has been in motion since 2005, Ho was convicted in 2018 for attempting to bribe government officials in Uganda and Chad.

The son has also been investigated concerning allegations by Rudy Giuliani that vice president at the time, Joe Biden, engaged in corrupt activities through his son’s employment in the Ukrainian company Burisma. Hunter Biden was a board member of the gas company, whose founder has faced corruption allegations.

In 2019, Biden’s lawyers stated that any business activities that Biden was undertaking were not discussed with his father.

Despite all this, no criminal activity has been proven against Hunter Biden. Therefore, his only crime seems to be having very dodgy business relations. I guess his new artistic endeavours are going to be just great! (very strong sarcasm in motion)

Hunter Biden Vs. the Republicans

Hunter Biden also joked about being “the most famous artist in the MAGA world’’.

Florida Congressman Mike Waltz introduced a new bill on July 27, with the name Preventing Anonymous Income by Necessitating Transparency of Executive Relatives Act, or PAINTER. 

This bill, under such a subtle name, requires current and future presidents and vice presidents to disclose the financial information of their adult children.

“Under this administration, we have witnessed shameless attempts to profit off Joe Biden’s presidency that jeopardize the integrity of the White House,” Stated the Congressman. 

“Despite the Biden administration’s silence on this issue, American citizens have a right to know who is attempting to purchase access to the White House through an ‘artist,’ Hunter Biden, with no established credentials to warrant such enormous profits.” 

Someone who could not remain silent about this issue, or any other issue for that matter, was former President Donald Trump. At a Turning Point USA during July, Trump called Hunter Biden’s artistic quest ‘‘a bribe.’’

According to Hunter Biden, he has been making art since he was a child and it has really been a coping mechanism for him. And I say, ‘let him paint!’ but don’t try to make us believe that he is selling his artworks for the first time for such high prices just because he is a good artist, because that is simply an insult to every creative individual who tries to make a life of their work.

Illustration by Sofia Toi

About The Author

Eugenia Pacheco Aisa

Eugenia Pacheco Aisa is an MA History of Art student at University College London (UCL), working on her dissertation about photographer Francesca Woodman. She graduated from UCL in 2020, from a degree in Classical Archaeology and Classical Civilisations. A recent addition to the Mouthing Off Magazine, Eugenia currently manages the visual arts team.

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