September 28, 2023

Hunter Biden is expected to sell some of his artwork for up to $ 500,000 this fall – but he may never know who is buying it.

For the past few months, White House officials have been working on an ethics plan designed to protect the identities of those bidding on the presidential son’s artwork, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The plan, criticized by ethics experts, is intended to prevent a wealthy person from ingratiation with Hunter or his powerful family by paying a handsome sum for the difficult-to-evaluate paintings.

The deal, the details of which the White House has not confirmed on file, is set to enable Hunter Biden – a former lawyer struggling with addiction problems – to embark on a new career in the arts, the Post reported. At the same time, President Joe Biden has pledged to uphold stricter barriers between family and governance than existed under his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement: “The president has set the highest ethical standards of any government in American history, and his family’s commitment to rigorous processes like this is a prime example.”

The prices for Hunter’s artwork are set by the New York gallery owner Georges Berges, according to the Post. Berges previously said that Hunter Biden’s artwork ranges in value from $ 75,000 for works on paper to $ 500,000 for his larger paintings.

Berges will reject offers that are suspicious or above the asking price, the Post reported, citing unnamed people who are familiar with the agreement. The Post quoted someone who initially identified themselves as a caller from Berges’ gallery who said the process was “nothing unusual”. This person later declined to be named.

Hunter Biden’s abstract art has received mixed reviews. In June, The New York Post, which criticized Hunter Biden, published a story with the headline: “Hunter Biden’s artwork is actually good and will be worth a lot, experts say.”

Mark Tribe, chairman of the MFA Fine Arts Department at the New York School of Visual Arts, told the tabloid that Hunter Biden’s work was “pretty strong.”

“The colors and the compelling organic shapes – it’s the kind of organic abstraction that I like and that piques your curiosity,” said Tribe.

But Jeffry Cudlin, an art professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, told the conservative Washington Examiner that Hunter Biden’s paintings should cost no more than $ 3,000, the kind of art “to hang over someone’s couch.”

“If Hunter Biden were applying to the school for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting, I think a portfolio of these pieces would show some medium flair and emerging talent and encourage anyone to do so with a little training and a little study to review, Biden might do some interesting paintings one day, “said Cudlin.

The ethics agreement is the latest headache that Hunter Biden, who has faced for years on allegations that he improperly profited from his father’s position, has caused the White House.

Last month, the Daily Mail tabloid published photos allegedly taken by Hunter Biden’s laptop, which raised questions about whether his father helped him with his overseas business while he was vice president. The White House has denied Joe Biden discussing overseas business with his son. Hunter Biden is also facing a state investigation into his tax affairs.

While the White House appears to be keen to provide Hunter Biden with a conflict-free way to sell his artwork, the deal has, as reported, been criticized by experts.

Walter Shaub, a senior ethics attorney who served as director of the Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to 2017, wrote in a long thread on Twitter that the sales process for Hunter Biden’s artwork was “very disappointing.”

“So instead of disclosing who is paying outrageous sums of money for Hunter Biden’s artwork so we can monitor whether buyers get access to the government, WH has tried to make sure we never know who they are,” wrote Shaub.

“The idea is that even Hunter doesn’t know, but the WH has outsourced government ethics to a private art dealer,” added Shaub. “We’re supposed to trust a dealer in an industry that is fertile ground for money laundering and unknown buyers to tell hunters or WH officials about? No thanks.”

Norm Eisen, an attorney who served as an ethics councilor for former President Barack Obama, was more compassionate. Eisen told the Post that “the basic assumption is that adult children are able to make a living,” although he stressed that there should be significant distance between sales and the White House.

“That means things like the White House shouldn’t promote the art exhibition, which to my knowledge they don’t,” Eisen told the newspaper.

While Hunter Biden held back during his father’s presidential campaign, Trump often tried to capitalize on his checkered past and fight his political father against drug and alcohol addiction. Trump was charged in 2019 after trying to get the Ukrainian government to investigate both Bidens. In 2020 he was acquitted.

Hunter Biden’s emerging art career comes from trying to take on a larger public role. Earlier this year he published his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” which the New York Times described as “equal parts family saga, grief tale, and addict howl”. Despite slow sales, Hunter has said Biden that he is working on a sequel to his memoir.

Subscribe to CNBC Pro for the TV livestream, deep insights and analytics.