Turns Out Hunter Biden Did Actually Know Who Bought His Art

The statements from his dealer contradict a widely reported ethics plan set up after the artist's father became president.

Hunter Biden at work. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Republican James Comer has issued a statement claiming that Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, was aware of the identities of buyers of his artworks, according to statements made by his gallerist. If true, this contradicts an alleged White House ethics agreement that was widely reported when Biden debuted his newfound career as an exhibition artist in 2021.

According to reports by the Washington Post and then CNN in 2021, the White House was involved in forming an agreement between Hunter Biden and his art dealer to keep the sales arrangements and potential and final buyers’ identities anonymous so that neither Hunter Biden nor the public will know who who bid on or purchased his art to avoid political conflicts of interest.

But in response to Artnet News’s enquiry on Monday, Georges Bergès, the gallerist who represents Hunter Biden, said in an email that “there is no White House ethics agreement.” He noted that he never said that there was such an agreement and he told the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability that he never had any contact with the White House in a meeting.

Comer, Kentucky-based Republican chairman of a House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, shared a statement on January 9 following the committee’s meeting with Bergès. He called Biden’s art career “amateur,” describing it “an ethics nightmare.”

His press release, which came out the day after the committee’s release of a report recommending Hunter Biden to be held in contempt of Congress (voting took place along party lines) for failing to show up for a deposition in December, is part of a wider move by the Republicans to connect Hunter Biden’s business dealings to an impeachment campaign against the president. Biden denied a connection between his father and his own business, according to Axios, and said Republicans were attacking him to hurt the president politically as he continues on the campaign trail in 2024.

Installation view "Hunter Biden: The Journey Home" at Georges Bergès Gallery. Photo: Katya Kazakina.

Installation view “Hunter Biden: The Journey Home” at Georges Bergès Gallery. Photo: Katya Kazakina.

According to Comer’s statement dated January 9, Bergès admitted to the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability in a transcribed interview that the younger Biden knew who purchased approximately 70 percent of his art, in terms of value. He alleges buyers included Kevin Morris, a top Hollywood attorney said to be a financial backer of Hunter Biden, and Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali, a Los Angeles-based real estate investor and philanthropist. Both are said to be Democrat donors, the statement noted.

Naftali did not buy any of Hunter Biden’s art from Bergès in 2020 despite the dealer’s “best efforts,” according to the committee’s interview with the dealer; she made her first purchase in February 2021 for $42,000, after Joe Biden officially took office with his inauguration on January 21 that year. In July 2022, she was appointed by his father president Biden to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. Naftali bought more of Hunter Biden’s art for $52,000 in December 2022. The committee member did not state which were the works that Naftali purchased between 2021 and 2022.

Naftali’s name came into the limelight last year when she was named one of the buyers of Hunter Biden’s art, according to a Business Insider report in July 2023. The committee subsequently wrote to the high-powered Democrat donor demanding documents and information about her such art purchases. Naftali also maintained in a letter to Comer last year that she had no contact with the White House about her purchases of Biden’s art.

Morris, the Hollywood attorney, best-known for brokering the lucrative landmark deal for the South Park creators, was said to have purchased most of Hunter Biden’s art for $875,000 in January 2023. “However, Kevin Morris only paid Mr. Bergès 40 percent commission of the $875,000 purchase and Hunter Biden and Kevin Morris figured out the financial implications,” according to the house committee’s statement, but exactly what the “financial implications” were for the remaining sum remains unclear. The committee said that Bergès admitted he has never done an art deal like this previously; he also apparently admitted that Hunter Biden’s name had an influence on setting the price for his art. 

Hunter Biden with his father, Vice President Joe Biden, at the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for World Food Program USA.

Hunter Biden with his father, Vice President Joe Biden, at the World Food Program USA’s Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for World Food Program USA.

The transcribed interview with Bergès went against an ethics plan reportedly drafted with the White House in 2021. It was widely reported at the time that “purchases of Hunter Biden’s artwork…will be kept confidential from even the artist himself,” and the New York dealer will not disclose any records including potential and final buyers in a bid to prevent anyone from buying their way to get political favors.

The exact terms of such agreement was never publicized, but the then White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in 2021 that the sales of art and the setting of prices will be handled by the gallerist, who will not share any information about the dealings including information about buyers or prospective buyers, and “any offer out of the normal course would be rejected out of hand.” It was reported that Biden’s artworks were selling at prices ranging from $55,000 to $225,000. But according to a Business Insider report, the asking prices went as high as $500,000.

Bergès told the committee that he did not have any contact with the White House regarding Hunter Biden’s art, and Hunter Biden only found out about the identity of one of the buyers through media reports and another buyer after seeing an image of his work on display at that person’s house, according to Politico. But this did not stop the Republicans from escalating their allegations against the younger Biden.

“The White House’s ‘ethics’ agreement regarding Hunter Biden’s art was a sham,” noted Comer’s statement. “The Biden White House appears to have deceived the American people about facilitating an ethics agreement governing the sale of Hunter Biden’s art.”

Such allegations against Hunter Biden have given the Republicans more ammunition against the Biden administration as the president is running for re-election in November’s presidential race. Concerns over Biden’s ethics have become an issue as some 35 percent of the U.S. adults believed that he has done something illegal related to his son’s business dealings, and a further 33 percent thought that he has done something unethical but not illegal, according to a poll held in October.

Hunter Biden’s business dealings have been a target of scrutiny as the House Republicans has been seeking to impeach Joe Biden for months by linking him with his son’s business dealings. In December, the younger Biden defied a subpoena to testify privately at the House oversight committee and instead held a press conference outside the Capitol.

The incident led to the House committee’s hearing on January 10 to consider a resolution to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress. Hunter Biden made a surprise appearance at the meeting with his attorney Abbe Lowell. Two days later, Biden said through Lowell that should a new subpoena been issued, he will “comply for a hearing or deposition” in private.


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