Government ethics watchdogs and art critics alike are voicing their concerns as first son Hunter Biden prepares for his first solo art exhibition this fall — where paintings from the former lawyer and lobbyist are expected to fetch between $75,000 to $500,000 and buyers will remain anonymous.
“The whole thing is a really bad idea,” Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush, told the Washington Post.
“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.”
Walter Shaub, who led the Office of Government Ethics under President Obama, told the paper that the art buyers having their identities protected created a host of problems.
“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,” he said.
“What these people are paying for is Hunter Biden’s last name.”
Painter also referenced the issue of anonymity, noting that foreign governments or lobbyists could buy the art through intermediaries in an effort to curry favor with the Biden White House.
President Biden’s 51-year-old son is putting the finishing touches on the 15 paintings that will comprise his first solo exhibition, which is scheduled to open in October at Georges Berges’ SoHo gallery, with a private viewing for VIP collectors in Los Angeles in September.
Speaking to The Post late last month, Berges, 45, who said he discovered Biden after being introduced by a “serious” Los Angeles-based collector, admitted he was skeptical of the president’s son’s artistic ability.
“A lot of people say they can paint and do sculpture, but what I was concerned about was whether Hunter’s work would be authentic,” the gallery owner said.
Berges, who represents a roster of international artists, spent three years helping Biden, who is self-taught, take his abstract expressionist painting from a hobby that occupied “about 20 percent of his time” to a full-time job that saw Biden spend the last two and a half years holed up in his home studio on a hillside in Los Angeles following a “regimented” routine.
“What interested me was whether the work was going to be honest — something that was really true to him and his journey,” Berges said. “But as soon as I met him, I had a real connection with him and I felt I could work with him.”
The gallery owner said he was excited by what he saw in Biden’s home studio: ethereal pastels of raindrops and other natural elements, most of them done on Japanese Yupo paper using ink blown through a straw.
When news broke last year that Biden was hiding an artistic side, Berges said he was immediately inundated with calls from collectors trying to get their hands on some of his work.
As a result, prices will range from $75,000 for works on paper to $500,000 for the larger canvases.
Among the works is an abstract self-portrait in silhouette of a sunglass-clad Biden, incorporating a photograph and prose poem that ties in with Biden’s recently published, drug and sex-fueled memoir, “Beautiful Things.”
Berges defended the prices to The Post, saying, “Everyone thinks that Hunter just landed on the art scene but this has been years in the making.”
“I helped him create a daily structure, and have kept it under wraps over the sensitivity of who he is, especially while his father was running for president.”
Still, Biden and Berges have faced some critics arguing that buying art at high prices from an immediate member of the first family could be viewed as a way to curry favor with the commander-in-chief.
Reached for comment by the outlet, White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said there had been no wrongdoing with regard to the first son’s business dealings.
“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.”