A Washington Post art critic panned paintings sold by President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, this weekend as “nothing to see here,” and “not being worth more than $1,000.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic for the Post, Sebastian Smee, said in an email interview with CNN Saturday, that paintings on sale from scandal ridden Hunter Biden, that are estimated to fetch prices of up to $500,000 each, are merely “café art,” and that it is obvious that the only reason the prices are so high is because of his last name, and proximity to the White House.
“A few people probably sniff the chance to make money from his notoriety. But for the most part, people with influence in the art world are looking at his work and thinking, ‘nothing much to see here,’" Smee said. “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.”
The younger Biden has been plagued with several public scandals in the last couple of years dealing with his admitted drug use, working on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, for “tens of thousands” of dollars a month, as well as emails on a laptop that could implicate his father, the president, in influence peddling while serving as vice president during the Barack Obama administration, according to a Breitbart report.
He has recently turned to art and is planning exhibits in Los Angeles and New York City during the fall, where the pieces are expected to sell at high prices between $75,000 to $500,000 each, according to his dealer, Georges Berges.
The White House said that the buyers of the pieces, and the amounts paid, will be kept “anonymous” to comply with ethics standards, but some ethics experts say anonymity does little in an industry where corruption is hard to ferret out because the value of the product is subjective to the buyer.
“The president's son is selling art at extravagant prices based on his ties to the president. We have a White House that effectively blessed this profiting on a father's public service by hinting that it didn't seek disclosure of buyers' names for fear of driving down prices,” Ethics expert, and former director at the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Straub, posted on Twitter July 8. “We needed the names so we could monitor whether the buyers get enhanced access to (the) government. Rather than asking for them and pledging to release logs of all meetings between the buyers and admin officials, the White House negotiated to keep them secret.”
During a June interview with Artnet news, the younger Biden said his art was a way of getting to “truth.”
“I don’t paint from emotion or feeling, which I think are both very ephemeral,” Biden said in the interview. “For me, painting is much more about kind of trying to bring forth what is, I think, the universal truth.”
Deputy White House Press Secretary Anthony Bates said the administration is confident the arrangement passes ethical muster.
“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,” he said.
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