On Friday night, at a pop-up event in Hollywood, Hunter Biden shared his artwork with the LA glitterati. In a big white room at Milk Studios, usually the site of photo or video shoots, 200 or so people gathered to experience the art of President Joe Biden’s son.
As has been previously reported, his gallerist, George Bergès, is looking to fetch between $75,000 and $500,000 a piece for Biden’s paintings. And this has raised ethical issues the White House has not fully addressed. After all, what is the potential for influence-buying when a person can hand the president’s son hundreds of thousands of dollars for artwork that would carry a much lower price tag if the artist did not share DNA with the chief executive? Bergès has insisted that Biden won’t be told the identity of the art lovers who write six-figure checks to acquire his handiwork. Yet the safeguards in this arrangement are paint-thinner thin, and government ethics experts have howled. Coincidentally or not, the art market is notorious for facilitating under-the-table transactions, the hiding of assets, and money-laundering.
At the pop-up, there was little grousing about the ethics of the moment, according to one attendee. As hors d’oeuvres and drinks were served, the art aficionados gazed at works that appeared mainly to be reproductions. (It’s cheaper than shipping.) An animated projection displayed a host of Biden’s in-progress paintings. Spotted among the assembled were artist Shepard Fairey (creator of the iconic Barack Obama/Hope poster), musician Moby, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was a national co-chair of Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign and who was recently nominated by the president to serve as US ambassador to India. Though only a handful of the people present wore masks throughout the indoors event—vaccination proof was required for entry—Garcetti kept his on the entire time he was present, the attendee notes. A documentary crew roamed about filming everything, and there was a security presence greater than usual at an art event. Toward the end of the evening, a violinist began playing in front of the animated projection.
The attendee shared some snaps from the event:
The painting (pictured above) that included a big head featured a quote from a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher named Parmenides:
One path only is left for us to speak of, namely, that It is. In it are very many tokens that what is, is uncreated and indestructible, alone, complete, immovable and without end. Nor was it ever, nor will it be, for now it is, all at once, a continuous one.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes Parmenides this way: “Active in the earlier part of the 5th c. BCE, [he] authored a difficult metaphysical poem that has earned him a reputation as early Greek philosophy’s most profound and challenging thinker.” What’s the significance of this quote for Hunter Biden? Perhaps if you purchase the work—for $100,000? $200,000, or more?—he will explain.
Did the Hollywood exhibit bring in cash for this newcomer to the art scene? Mother Jones contacted Bergès to ask if any pieces sold. So far, he has not responded.