Many public and political figures have enjoyed painting, drawing or sculpting as a budding career or a carefree pastime.
United Kingdom Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill created over 500 paintings and sold a few in his lifetime. Several U.S. presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, displayed a real aptitude for painting with oils and watercolours.
Members of the British Royal Family, including Queen Victoria and Prince Charles, enjoyed dabbling in pencil sketches and watercolours. Actors Sylvester Stallone and Dennis Hopper, actress Lucy Liu, and musicians David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Yoko Ono have all painted. And, of course, there’s Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
All of which brings us to the strange case of Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden.
The 51-year-old lawyer, lobbyist and investor has long been a controversial public figure. He was reportedly discharged from the military after testing positive for cocaine. He’s struggled with drug and alcohol abuse during adulthood. He sat on the board of China’s BHR Partners and, most notably, Ukraine’s Burisma Holdings, which has put him and his father in the crosshairs of unfounded allegations of corruption and money laundering.
Biden has worked as a full-time artist for the past two years. Adam Popescu of the New York Times described him as an “unknown’ artist” in a Feb. 28, 2020, piece, although “his name is very well known, for all the wrong reasons.” He apparently “has no formal training as an artist, but he said that he has sketched off and on since age 7, and that he wasn’t dabbling: ‘It’s something I’ve taken seriously for a long time but hasn’t necessarily been for public consumption.’”
He certainly wouldn’t be classified as an artist who’s struggling or starving.
“As an undiscovered artist,” Popescu noted about Biden, “he is better situated than most: living in a rented, 2,000-square-foot house in the Hollywood Hills off Mulholland Drive, with a Porsche Panamera in the driveway, plenty of natural light and a pool house he has transformed into an art studio.”
The president’s son also told the Times, “Painting is literally keeping me sane. For years I wouldn’t call myself an artist. Now I feel comfortable saying it.”
Four of his surrealist paintings – Rain #1, Telescope #1, Untitled #3 and Untitled #4 – accompanied the New York Times piece. There are some photos of him painting in his studio, in which he uses alcohol ink and blows it with a metal straw.
There’s no question that Biden paints for a living and has built a body of work. The paintings are rather amateurish and mediocre and likely wouldn’t be noticed on the open market if it wasn’t for his famous father and political pedigree.
And that brings us to the next questionable bit about Biden’s newfound artistic career.
Biden is an artist with Georges Bergès’s gallery, which is based in New York and Berlin. According to a July 8, 2021, Washington Post piece by Matt Viser, the gallery owner “is planning to set prices for the art and will withhold all records, including potential bidders and final buyers.”
Bergès also agreed “to reject any offer that he deems suspicious or that comes in over the asking price, according to people familiar with the agreement.”
Viser also wrote that “officials close to President Biden, who have helped craft the agreement along with Hunter Biden’s attorney, have attempted to do so in a way that allows the president’s son to pursue a new career while also adhering to the elder Biden’s pledge to reverse his predecessor’s ethical laxity, especially regarding family members.”
How much will Biden’s paintings sell for?
“Bergès has said that prices for the paintings would range from $75,000 to $500,000,” according to the Post.
Are you floored by this potential price tag?
You should be.
No matter what type of private arrangement the Biden White House and Bergès have set up – which the former shouldn’t have been involved in for obvious reasons, but I digress – it has a really bad look.
The president’s son could reap a small fortune from the sales of his mediocre art. Most collectors who purchase his paintings will surely base their decision on his last name and controversial history rather than artistic ability and subject matter. Investment in his art could increase with heightened sales and interest, even if it’s only short-term.
In other words, it will be for all the wrong reasons (again).
What does the elder Biden think about all this?
He’s been pretty quiet on the subject and we’ll probably never know – unless a Hunter Biden original is unexpectedly displayed in the Oval Office, that is.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics. For interview requests, click here.
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