Hunter Biden showcased his expensive paintings at a Manhattan art gallery Wednesday with the support of family members and Hollywood stars, ignoring the many critics, former president Barack Obama’s ethics chief among them, who have said his art sales represent a clear conflict of interest for the first family.
Accompanied by relatives including wife Melissa Cohen, daughter Maisy Biden, and the president’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, as well as some celebrities, Hunter Biden greeted gallery owner George Berges for a celebration to kick-off his expensive painting exhibition. The show had opened over two weeks prior to a small pool of interested clients.
Despite the president’s son lack of expertise and professional experience in fine art, his pieces are expected to be valued at up to $500,000, a price tag that has triggered the suspicion of government ethics experts, including President Obama’s former ethics chief Walter Shaub.
Art critic Donald Kuspit lauded Biden’s display, commenting to the New York Post: “He’s a serious artist. The work is terrific.” However, Kuspit clarified that no sales were generated during the soiree. “It really had nothing to do with money. It was just a social event,” he said.
Preceding the New York City event was a Los Angeles debut, which was attended by other high-profile individuals such as boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, musician Moby, and artist Shepard Fairey, the creative vision behind the “Hope” graphic design for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, the Post noted.
Per the arrangement Hunter Biden reached with his father’s White House, he can make proceeds from his art sales under the condition that the identities of prospective bidders remain anonymous so as to avoid political favoritism and influence peddling to his father’s administration. Months ago, Berges promised he would refuse extraordinarily high offers, according to The Washington Post.
But Shaub and other ethics specialists fear that the setup provides no real safeguards against ethical infractions, especially in a market notorious for shady business activity and money laundering.
In October, Shaub tweeted: “There is no ethics program in the world that can be built around the head of state’s staff working with a dealer to keep the public in the dark about the identities of individuals who pay vast sums to the leader’s family member for subjectively priced items of no intrinsic value.”
“If this were [Donald] Trump, Xi [Jinping] or [Vladimir] Putin, you’d have no doubt whatsoever that this creates a vehicle for funneling cash to the first family in exchange for access or favors. Nor would you doubt that the appearance of monetizing the presidency was outrageous,” he added.
Hunter Biden has also come under fire for disregarding that deal with the White House, appearing at a gallery with at least one prospective buyer who was seeking an ambassadorship with his father’s administration.
For many months, Shaub has criticized the arrangement, calling it “the perfect mechanism for funneling bribes” to the president during an appearance on CNN.
“The idea that they’re going to flag any overly priced offers — well, this is art that hasn’t even been juried into a community art sale. How are they going to decide what’s unreasonable when they’ve already priced it in the range of $75,000 to $500,000 for a first outing? This is just preposterous and very disappointing,” the Obama official said.