We may not know art, but we know what we don’t like.
That would be influence-peddling based on a familial connection. And that goes particularly true when the family name is Biden and the patriarch is the President of the United States.
President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, has dabbled in art over the years, but never had any formal training. In the past year he has become more committed to his new “profession” and inked an agreement with a New York art gallerist, Georges Berges, to sell some of his works on paper and canvas that will be priced at between $70,000 and $500,000 each when they go on sale next fall.
The budding young Biden’s first gallery showing has raised the hackles of both those in the art world and those concerned with government ethics. Some in the art world see the high prices for a first showing as unusual, if not outrageous.
Some experts in government ethics see it as an echo of Hunter Biden’s notoriety over his consulting work for a Ukrainian gas company and other business arrangements that appeared to capitalize on the Biden name while Joe Biden was vice-president.
The White House, in an attempt to dampen the fuss, said it would insulate the president from his son from ethical pitfalls with an arrangement that would toss out any art offers out of the norm. Plus, the gallerist “will not share information about buyers, or prospective buyers, including their identities, with Hunter Biden or the administration.”
Right. That will probably last as long as it takes a foreign leader or a businessman to pose in front of an original Biden work that cost a pretty penny just to — wink-wink — let the president know who his son’s friends are.
Hunter Biden may not be the first to trade on a president’s name — and, in fact, he is not the most outrageous. That honor likely would go to President Bill Clinton’s brother, Roger, who accepted $50,000 and a Rolex watch in 1999 from the children of Sicilian mobster Rosario Gambino, a convicted narcotics trafficker serving a 49-year sentence, in exchange for lobbying for a pardon. Gambino was included on a list of potential pardons, but didn’t get one. Roger, however, was granted a pardon for a 1985 cocaine trafficking conviction in January 2001 as his brother left office. Small wonder that Roger Clinton was given the code-name “Headache” by the Secret Service.
Hunter Biden’s art enterprise doesn’t fall in that category — at least not yet. It will be interesting to see what kind of prices Hunter’s pieces will bring at auction this fall.
One art critic, Sebastian Smee, a Pulitzer prize-winning art critic for the Washington Post, when asked by CNN whether Biden’s work was any good, aesthetically speaking, responded: “For me, not really.”
“Most great artists, whatever the style of art they make have been trying to make art all of their lives. They are fully devoted to what they do. To me, Biden seems a bit of a dabbler.”
Asked whose work Biden’s resembles, Smee responded: “A café painter. By which I mean, you see a certain kind of art in coffee shops, and some of it is OK and a lot of it is bad, and sometimes it’s surprisingly good. But you wouldn’t, unless you were related to the artist, spend more than $1,000 on it.”
We certainly hope a Hunter Biden original doesn’t show up on the walls in the Oval Office.