Is Hunter Biden’s art any good?

Well no, not really. But, Harry Shukman asks: can the art world really get snooty about his canvases?

Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym. But what of those who can’t even do that? The answer may lie in lower Manhattan at a small art gallery where Hunter Biden is exhibiting his abstract works.

On a stretch of West Broadway, where boutique art shops staffed by prescription pill addicts flog pointless culture tokens to investment bankers, there is a gallery displaying a selection of paintings by the president’s son. Fifteen of Biden’s mixed media works, all created in 2020, are up for sale at the Georges Bergès gallery. Prices for these graphic prints begin at $75,000 and go as high as $500,000. How these figures were settled upon must have been a work of medieval alchemy, a secret process known only to the initiated.

That’s because Biden, 51, is not an artist by profession. He made his career in lobbying, investing, and later on, curiously joining the board of a Ukrainian energy company for the lucrative salary of $50,000 a month. Biden also has a sad history of addiction – he has been in and out of rehab for crack and alcohol use – and he says he has found painting helpful in his battle for sobriety. “It’s kept me grounded, and initially kept me away from that underworld just down the canyon from us,” he wrote in his autobiography, Beautiful Things. “Whether anybody likes it or not isn’t what drives me to get up to paint. I paint no matter what. I paint because I want to. I paint because I have to. Our house is filled with paintings.”

Biden in his lobbying days

Biden will need all the enthusiasm that he can muster for his new craft, because every tabloid newspaper and gossip mag is lining up to give his work a good kicking. “Meager turnout marks second day of Hunter Biden’s NYC art show,” the New York Post hooted. Only three potential buyers turned up at the gallery on one dreary Sunday. “You’re not going to see much of a crowd today,” Bergès, the gallery owner, has been quoted saying. When asked if there would ever be a formal opening, he said: “I don’t know.”

The gallery’s blurb promises “powerful and impactful paintings… a unique experience that has become his signature”. The reaction has been mixed. The Post spoke to two lucky viewers – one who said he was “shocked” to find that the paintings were actually good, another who with all the lapidary directness of a true New Yorker pointed down the road and said: “There’s a booth over there that has better work than this shit.”

Any hype that the gallery might have tried to whip up has been kiboshed by the team of lawyers enlisted to vet anyone who wants to get inside. Even the location of a pop-up event in Los Angeles to promote Biden’s new career was kept secret until the last minute. An intimate event for 200 guests was held at Milk Studios in Hollywood, featuring Moby, LA’s Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Sugar Ray Leonard, the world champion boxer.

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