Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, stands credibly accused of influence-peddling and profiting off of his family name, even potentially selling access to his politician father, and his latest business move will surely only increase the scrutiny he has received in that regard.
A New York City gallery on Thursday unveiled three new pieces of artwork from Hunter Biden as part of a broader exhibit of abstract art from both new and established artists, the New York Post reported.
Those three paintings are priced at $85,000 each and were displayed at the "Bridging the Abstract" exhibit at the Georges Bergès Gallery in Soho, where gallery owner Georges Bergès has previously displayed other high-priced works from the president's son.
Legitimate questions have been raised about the sale of Hunter Biden's artwork and whether it is merely a front for money laundering or selling access to his father, but Bergès has defended Biden's artistry and even asserted that his family name hurts his chances of making a sale.
"The sad thing is that people think he’s using his name but it’s been an albatross around his neck because he needs to break out of that," the gallery owner said. "It’s almost hurting him, it’s not helping him."
Bergès, who has steadfastly refused to disclose any of the buyers of Biden's artwork over the past couple of years and who claims to have received death threats for his association with the president's son, insisted that there were a lot of "serious people" in the art world who are "interested" in Biden's work and are prepared to pay top dollar for it.
As for the three pieces in the gallery's latest exhibit, the Post noted that they received mixed reviews during the showing on Thursday that Biden did not attend. Some attendees called the art "interesting" or "not bad" while at least one person said they were "terrible."
The Washington Post reported in July 2021 that the White House quietly worked out a deal with Bergès to display and sell Hunter Biden's artwork for anywhere from $75,000 to $500,000 at his galleries in New York and California but to keep the identity of any buyers anonymous, ostensibly as a way to avoid ethical concerns about access-selling and influence-peddling -- though some ethics experts have countered that the anonymity of buyers only raises more suspicions.
"The whole thing is a really bad idea," Richard Painter, a chief ethics attorney during the tenure of President George W. Bush, told the Post at that time. "The initial reaction a lot of people are going to have is that he’s capitalizing on being the son of a president and wants people to give him a lot of money. I mean, those are awfully high prices."
Similarly, the Obama administration's head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Schaub, told the outlet, "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," and added, "What these people are paying for is Hunter Biden’s last name."
The Post noted that there were plenty of critics of the arrangement, including art critics who said Biden's work was only so expensive because of his last name, but also others who worry that foreign governments, lobbyists, and straw purchasers for sanctioned foreigners could use the anonymity as a shield to buy access and influence with the White House.
The House Oversight Committee led by Chairman James Comer (R-KY) has expressed an investigative interest in Hunter Biden's artwork and called out Bergès in March for obstruction of the probe via his refusal to cooperate with the committee's requests for information on who is buying the expensively-priced pieces of art -- though the committee has not yet issued a subpoena for his documents and testimony.
Given that even the Treasury Department has publicly warned that high-end art shows are frequently used to facilitate money laundering schemes and other illicit financial transactions, paired with the voluminous allegations of Hunter Biden's access-selling and influence-peddling on his father's name, it is understandable that the committee and other skeptics have real ethical and legal concerns about the art sales.
"Mr. Bergès has refused to provide any information regarding who is buying Mr. Biden’s art. He has chosen to obstruct in an apparent effort to shield Mr. Biden and/or the purchasers’ of Mr. Biden’s art from congressional oversight," Comer wrote in a March letter to Bergès' attorney, and later added, "Although your client has refused to produce any documents, the Committee will extend another opportunity for Mr. Bergès and the Georges Bergès Galleries LLC to adequately respond to our request."