Over the weekend, images posted on social media and shared in the press emerged showing Hunter Biden displaying his work in Los Angeles at Milk Studios – a Hollywood venue that typically hosts video and photo shoots.
One of the attendees at the LA event was the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti – President Joe Biden’s candidate to be the next US Ambassador to India and former national co-chair of his 2020 presidential campaign. Harrison Wollman, the press secretary in Garcetti’s office, confirmed the mayor attended the show but said he did not purchase any artwork.
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Government Watch on Government Watch, said in a statement that Hunter Biden’s presence at the LA event “undermined early White House claims that neither he nor the White House, would not know who bought his art. ”
“The silver lining of this dark cloud is now that the rest of us are also familiar with the universe of those who might be interested in purchasing the paintings – which will make it easier to follow up if those people are trying to curry favor. from the White House through the President’s Son, “argued Brian.
Prior promises to avoid potential conflicts of interest
“We’re going to run this like the Obama-Biden administration,” Biden told People magazine early in his term. “No one in our family and extended family will be involved in any government enterprise or foreign policy.”
In July, the first son told the podcast “Nota Bene: This Week in the Art World” that art prices are “completely subjective” and that he has never set the prices.
“Look, man, I never set my prices – what my art was going to cost, what it would cost or how much it would cost. I would be amazed, you know, if my art sold at, uh, you know, for $ 10, ”he said.
Asked about Garcetti’s presence and whether it posed a conflict of interest, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday: “We talked about the arrangement managed by the gallery owner and representatives of Hunter Biden that the White House provided suggestions for. “
“I refer you to the gallery owner for questions about the event, as well as to Mr. Garcetti’s representatives in terms of attendance,” she continued.
Ethical process implemented
Two sources familiar with the sale agreement told CNN that the buyer of the artwork will remain anonymous and that neither Hunter Biden nor the public will know who bid or bought the artwork. If there is any unusual behavior – such as the offer being too high or the collector not appearing interested in the work – the gallery should decline the offer, the sources said.
However, there is no clear enforcement mechanism for the standards agreed upon by the gallery and potential buyers. And Hunter Biden needed to be able to see who the potential buyers are at those shows, even if he doesn’t tell them about pricing or sales.
The Georges Bergés Gallery had previously indicated that Hunter Biden would attend a preview of his work in Los Angeles this fall, but details on attendees, an exhibition date and location have not been made public.
When asked for more information about the LA event, including the pieces that had been sold and the curator of the exhibition, Georges Bergés, owner of the gallery, told CNN: “We didn’t have no additional information “.
Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s former chief ethics lawyer, told CNN the White House should have taken a different approach with art sales – either by preventing Biden from selling art while his father is in office, or by being more transparent about who bought the art and demanding their challenge.
“Plan B would be to find out who these buyers are and get them as far away from the executive branch as possible. And you wouldn’t have a potential candidate ambassador showing off the art gallery,” said Painter, who is now a law professor. companies. at the University of Minnesota law school, told CNN.
“I think this secrecy business was never going to work,” he continued, referring to the purchase contract.
A gallery spokesperson told CNN over the summer that an invitation-only event in New York was to follow the event in LA. But when contacted for comment on Thursday, Bergés did not disclose further details about the New York show.
The potential art sales also caught the attention of the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, Kentucky Representative James Comer.
Comer requested that those documents be provided by September 29, but his office told CNN on Thursday that the gallery had yet to respond to any of its requests.