House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) renewed his request to a Soho art gallery for details about artwork it sold by the president’s son Hunter Biden, as the GOP-run committee prepares to dissect the Biden family’s finances in its quest to learn whether the president was linked to his relatives’ business dealings.
In a letter sent Wednesday, Comer asked the Georges Bergès Gallery to hand over communications with the White House and Hunter Biden, along with information about the buyers of the younger Biden’s artwork and attendees of exhibits featuring Hunter Biden’s paintings, and called on Georges Bergès to appear for an interview no later than February 15.
Comer argued the gallery’s “arrangement with Hunter Biden raises serious ethical concerns and calls into question whether the Biden family is again selling access and influence.”
Ethics watchdogs have raised concerns in the past that buyers of Hunter Biden’s artwork—which debuted at the gallery more than a year ago—could be making the purchases in a bid to seek preferential treatment from the White House, such as lobbyists or foreign officials, or simply to say they own a painting by the president’s son.
The asking prices for the artwork, which top out at $500,000, have also raised eyebrows among art critics and ethics watchdogs who say the price tags seem high for an unknown artist making first-time sales.
Former Obama-era ethics official Walter Shaub called the art sale a “terrible idea” in 2021, telling CNN Biden “can’t control his relatives,” but “it just is implausible that this art from an unknown artist would be selling at this price if it didn’t have the Biden name attached to it,” so “it really looks like the President’s son capitalizing on his father’s public service.”
Forbes has reached out to the gallery and the White House for comment.
White House lawyers established a set of ethics guidelines in 2021 that require the gallery to keep the identity of buyers secret–an effort to shield Biden from criticism that the buyers could be attempting to curry favor with the White House. Former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in 2021 this anonymity policy “allows for Hunter Biden to work in his profession within reasonable safeguards,” adding that “he has the right to pursue an artistic career, just like any child of a President has the right to pursue a career.” Some critics have argued that the policy should require the opposite, however, and promote transparency rather than secrecy.
Hunter Biden has said he has dabbled in art for years, but he recently became more invested in his work as a therapeutic escape, following a crack addiction and the death of his older brother Beau Biden in 2015. The Georges Bergès Gallery has promoted and sold artwork by the younger Biden in two exhibitions dating back to 2021, one of which featured a painting reportedly priced at up to $500,000. Comer initially sought information from the gallery in 2021 after it first debuted Hunter Biden’s artwork and again in November when Republicans won majority control of the House in the midterm election, requests Comer said the gallery has ignored. The latest letter comes after the debut of a more expansive, public show of 15 pieces of Hunter Biden’s artwork, titled “Haiku,” which features a series of abstract paintings inspired by Japanese poetry, according to the New York Post.
“It is concerning that President Biden’s son is the recipient of anonymous, high-dollar transactions–potentially from foreign buyers–with no accountability or oversight (other than you),” Comer wrote to the gallery. “The American people deserve transparency regarding certain details about Hunter Biden’s expensive art transactions.”
Republicans on the Oversight Committee claim to have gathered evidence throughout a years-long investigation that shows the president has used his influence to financially benefit his family’s business schemes—allegations Biden has denied. Comer claimed in November evidence shows Biden participated in “meetings and phone calls” and “was a partner with access to an office” in his family’s business dealings, which Comer said span 50 countries (Biden has repeatedly said he’s never spoken to his son about his overseas business dealings). Since Comer took over the committee at the start of the 118th session of Congress earlier this month, he has announced plans to use his new authority to ratchet up the probes into the Biden family’s finances. Comer has also sent letters to former Twitter executives requesting their testimony about the company’s decision to remove a 2020 New York Post story that suggested Biden had contact with his son’s Ukrainian business partners when he was vice president. In addition, the committee requested records from the Treasury department that detail foreign business transactions flagged by U.S. banks for possible illegal activity.
What To Watch For
The Washington Post reported in October that federal investigators believe they have gathered enough evidence to charge Hunter Biden with failing to report all of his income on tax forms and making false statements on paperwork to purchase a gun in 2018. Hunter Biden has acknowledged the investigation, but has said he is confident he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.