Add another title to the résumé of Hunter Biden, son of the U.S. president. Previously known primarily for his well-paid adventures in Ukrainian natural gas, Chinese finance, Romanian real estate, and Russian-backed computer manufacturing, the dashing man of letters is now taking the art world by storm. Turns out that Hunter Biden is also a painter, and as in so many of his other notable ventures, he seems to have discovered a well-heeled and enthusiastic clientele. Is there anything Hunter Biden can’t do?
Artnet’s Katya Kazakina reports:
He has a dealer, Georges Bergès; a studio; and a collector base. A solo show is on the horizon. Bergès plans to host a private viewing for Biden in Los Angeles this fall, followed by an exhibition in New York. Prices range from $75,000 for works on paper to $500,000 for large-scale paintings, Bergès said.
Some art critics are going on the record to sing his praises. The New York Post’s Nicholas Conca, Jessica Sonkin and Kate Sheehy report:
“I think it’s pretty strong — I like it,’’ Mark Tribe, chairman of the MFA Fine Arts Department at New York City’s School of Visual Arts, told The Post.
“The colors and compelling organic forms — it’s the kind of organic abstraction that I find easy on the eyes and provokes your curiosity,’’ Tribe said of the mixed-media paintings and drawings by President Biden’s son.
Even those who don’t care for the art can still be bullish on its commercial prospects. The Post reports:
Art consultant Martin Galindo told The Post that while he’s “not a fan” of the work by Hunter that he’s seen, “I’m very positive that he’s gonna do well in the market because this industry is very much about, what’s a simple way to put this — it’s like clout.”
Referring to a psychedelic blue and pinkish ink work by Hunter that resembles bacteria under a microscope, Galindo said, “Oh, my God, that looks like COVID.
“Honestly, I mean, from an aesthetic perspective, I don’t like it. But I’m sure he’s gonna do really well,” the art consultant said.
He sure will, though the works are not for everybody. Artnet’s Taylor Dafoe wrote in February:
“Generic Post Zombie Formalism illustration” is how Jerry Saltz, New York magazine critic and author of the forthcoming book How to Be an Artist, characterized Biden’s work in an email to Artnet News…
Meanwhile, art critic Scott Indrisek, former deputy editor of Artsy, had this to say: “Hunter’s paintings have a kind of vaguely scientific, vaguely psychedelic vibe that reminds me of Fred Tomaselli—if Fred Tomaselli started making art for dermatologists’ waiting rooms. But then again, the process here seems more important than the finished product. I guess it’s important that wounded men of a certain age and privileged background have the opportunity to find themselves creatively… it’s just too bad that everyone else is expected to pay attention.”
Artnet News’s own art critic Ben Davis had a somewhat more favorable response: “As digital images, at least, they are pleasing. It’s hard to say what they look like without seeing how the actual paper holds the ink. You can’t really judge it from your desktop.”
Daniella Byck wrote in Washingtonian magazine in March:
When we showed some of Biden’s output to art consultant Siobhan Gavagan of Shaw’s Long View Gallery, she was supportive but unimpressed. “I don’t know if it would be enough for me to even go on a studio visit,” she says. “But, you know, good for him.”
Of course, galleries aren’t the only places to show art. We’re assuming an exhibit at the National Gallery isn’t forthcoming, but what about, say, the Reach, at the Kennedy Center, which had a show of George W. Bush’s paintings? “I cannot say if we would host an exhibition, as each exhibit is looked at separately, within the context of the Center’s work, mission, and availability,” says a spokesperson (who adds that the venue hasn’t been approached on Biden’s behalf).
If that doesn’t pan out, perhaps there are other options. “I have to be honest and say it’s nice as decoration that would work well in a hotel,” says American University art professor Don Kimes. “It’s a
Bed, Bath & Beyond
kind of thing.”
The Journal’s Leisure & Arts Editor Eric Gibson pronounces the Hunter Biden works “no worse than George W. Bush’s and in some ways better. On the other hand, to paraphrase the famous Ted Kennedy jab, if his name were Hunter Smith nobody would be interested.” As for the expected prices, Mr. Gibson says “they seem about right for a newcomer with a celebrity name.”
And what a name it is. Trading on this name is a particular Washington art form that the Bidens practice with verve.
Speaking of the art market, Ben Hooper reports this week for UPI:
A painting purchased for less than $5 at a Canadian thrift store is now up for auction after the artist was identified as music legend David Bowie.
Auctioneer Cowley Abbott said the painting was purchased for $4.09 from a donation center for household goods in South River, Ontario, and was subsequently discovered to have been painted by Bowie in 1997…
The painting is being sold as part of Cowley Abbott’s International Art Online Auction and is expected to fetch a high bid of $9,000-$12,000.
Speaking of creative artists whose fathers are not the sitting President of the United States, Reason magazine’s Robby Soave has the disturbing story of the latest victim of leftist cancel culture, a musician and composer named Daniel Elder:
Elder’s supposed transgression stands out as particularly absurd. Though he was tarred and feathered as a racist contrarian, the Instagram post that caused all the trouble was neither racist nor contrarian. An overwhelming majority of people likely agree with the sentiment behind it, which was basically this: Arson is bad.
This column will go out on a limb and say that when it comes to creativity, Hunter Biden is no Daniel Elder.
James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”
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