Hunter Biden has discovered a sly new way to sell his famous family name to corrupt foreign billionaires and oligarchs. If his powerful father continues to help him behind the scenes—by twisting arms and dangling tempting U.S. loan packages—Joe Biden’s little boy might eventually wind up as rich as Donald Trump’s little girl.
Recently, like many other famous people from Sylvester Stallone, Johnny Depp and Marilyn Monroe to Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra—not to mention past Presidents such as Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush—Hunter Biden, second son of President Joe Biden, has taken up painting in order to, as he explained in a recent New York Times puff piece, “keep me sane.”
But his new profession is designed to keep him wealthy, too.
Georges Bergès, owner of the elegant Georges Bergès Gallery in New York’s tony Soho district, has announced that this October his entire gallery will be given over to a solo exhibition of Hunter Biden’s paintings. Hunter is a former lawyer and lobbyist with no art training who has never sold a single work in the commercial art market. But his paintings will be offered for sale at prices starting at “only” $75,000 for works on paper to $500,000 for larger canvasses, the gallery owner said.
Are Hunter’s paintings really worth half a million dollars?
They may well be—to corporate lobbyists on the make, foreign countries angling for U.S. loans, or government contractors looking for a sweetheart deal—all of whom would gladly pay through the nose for Hunter’s paintings in hopes of getting a smile and a thumbs-up from his father.
When Jeffry Cudlin (Professor of Curatorial Studies and Practice at the Maryland Institute College of Art) was asked by the Washington Examiner, “How much of the value [of Hunter’s paintings] is due to the art itself? he replied, “That’s easy: None of it … They’re fine decorative amateur work. Hey, everybody needs a hobby!” Cudlin put their value at $850 to $3,000.
The Art Critic of New York magazine, Jerry Saltz, called Hunter’s work “Generic Post Zombie Formalism.”
As reported in Artnet, art critic Scott Indrisek, former editor-in-chief of Modern Painters magazine, said that, “Hunter’s paintings … remind me of … art for dermatologists’ waiting rooms.” He also compared the paintings to a screensaver and told the Washington Post, “It’s the most anonymous art I can imagine … somewhere between a screen saver and if you just Googled ‘midcentury abstraction’ and mashed up whatever came up.”
Little wonder that the White House is embarrassed at the prospect of this art sale, since it has provoked allegations that it is just another attempt by Hunter to trade on his father’s name and high public office—as he has been accused of doing in his previous questionable business dealings overseas, which have sparked the current investigation into Hunter’s finances by the Department of Justice.
But Joe Biden won’t try to stop Hunter from selling his paintings.
Instead, he is giving him a green light. Under a special “ethics protocol” worked out between the White House and the Georges Bergès art gallery, there will be no objection to Hunter’s paintings being sold for up to $500,000—as long as all buyers’ identities are kept secret from the public, and presumably from Hunter himself.
This is supposed to protect the government from those who might want to buy access or special treatment. But it will do exactly the opposite. Since the buyers will be anonymous, “you won’t be able to follow the money,” as pointed out by The Art Newspaper.
Which means that a lobbyist, or a government contractor, or a foreign government can’t really be prevented from secretly buying a $500,000 painting—and putting the money into Hunter Biden’s bank account—in order to get favored treatment from his father.
So, Hunter will be able to continue trading on his father’s name and high office, raking in millions of dollars in a piggish deal that one writer has called “a license to swill.”
In an interview with FOX News, Walter Shaub, former Office of Government Ethics director under Obama, said that the White House’s decision to grant anonymity to buyers of Hunter’s paintings actually increases the risk of “influence-seekers funneling money to the Biden family.” He said that Hunter and his art dealer, Georges Bergès, “should disclose the identity of the purchasers” so that we can see if those buyers have a conflict of interest and are inappropriately attempting to “gain access to [the] government.”
“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 … What these people are paying for is Hunter Biden’s last name.”
But even if the White House’s ethics protocol works, Shaub added,
“The notion of a president’s son capitalizing on that relationship by selling art at obviously inflated prices and keeping the public in the dark about who’s funneling money to him has a shameful and grifty feel to it … But I also think it’s ridiculous that Hunter Biden is even going forward with this sale as a first-time artist … He can’t possibly think anyone is paying him based on the quality of the art. This smells like an attempt to cash in on a family connection to the White House.”
Naturally, Hunter and gallery owner Bergès indignantly reject any suggestion that the extraordinarily high prices being asked for the work of a first-time artist who has never sold a painting is an attempt to cash in on the Biden family name. They maintain that, based on artistic merit alone, Hunter’s paintings are worth every penny of their stratospheric price tags.
But as art critic Indrisek noted: “If Hunter Biden wanted to be judged on the artistic merit of his work alone, he’d show them under the name “Hunter Wilson” or something.” But then, how eager would gallerist Georges Bergès be to put a price tag of $500,000 on a painting by “Hunter Wilson”?
This is not the first time that Hunter Biden has cashed in on the family name, or tried to leverage his father’s influential government positions in order to rake in shady—perhaps even illegal—profits for himself and, as recent emails suggest, possibly for his father as well.
For example, Hunter was paid $50,0000 a month for five years (approximately $3 million) to serve on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, even though he had no experience or credentials in the energy field and never visited Ukraine for company business during that period.
Hunter’s appointment was allegedly part of a scheme to pressure the Ukrainian government (which at the time was desperately seeking billions in U.S. loans) to shut down an investigation into Burisma’s owner, Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, who was suspected of money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.
Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani claim that Hunter earned his $50,000 a month from Burisma by having his father—then Barack Obama’s Vice President—tell Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who was spearheading the investigation into Zlochevsky’s affairs—otherwise the U.S. would not approve the loans.
Were Trump and Giuliani correct? It seems they were. Joe Biden did tell the Ukrainian President to fire his chief prosecutor as a condition for obtaining a U.S. loan. In fact, he bragged about it publicly. The chief prosecutor was duly fired and the investigation into Burisma’s owner was shut down.
In another embarrassing situation for the White House, Hunter was hired by a Romanian executive who was being charged with corruption—at the same time that Joe Biden was leading a U.S. crusade against corruption in Romania, whose mission was to prosecute and jail corrupt executives like Hunter’s client. So reasonable people might well wonder: Was Hunter being paid for his legal advice … or for being Joe Biden’s son?
Surely we have entered a new era of high-level bribery. No longer does a seeker of favors need to hand over a bulging paper bag stuffed with $100 bills (way too uncool). Or pay a presidential scion $50,000 a month to sit on the board of a company whose business he knows nothing about (too embarrassingly public).
Now all one has to do is buy a painting for $500,000 and the money will automatically appear in Hunter Biden’s bank account without anyone knowing where it came from—thanks to the White House’s secrecy protocol.
Given this new opportunity to engage in bribery without leaving fingerprints, can we soon expect a procession of Ukrainian oligarchs, Chinese taipans and Saudi sheiks to begin shelling out $500,000 to buy one of Hunter’s underwhelming paintings, because—well, they just happened to see it hanging in a gallery and absolutely fell in love with it?
You can bet on it. If wealthy art lovers suddenly find themselves gripped by an insatiable urge to purchase original Hunter Biden paintings (along with a few favors from Hunter’s father), no one can stop them.
But what if you or I suddenly get an urge to own a Hunter Biden painting, but find oneself to be a few embarrassing dollars short of the required $500,000?
Not to worry. As The Week advises: “Real art lovers should bide their time—you can probably get a discount on Hunter’s paintings after his dad leaves office.
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