Donald Trump Used His Foundation to Buy a Six-Foot Painting of Himself by This Artist

It's "Cirque du Soleil meets Picasso," some say.

Michael Israel. Photo via YouTube.
Michael Israel. Photo via YouTube.

The Washington Post has conducted an extensive investigation of Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump’s foundation, which reveals potential acts of self-dealing, violations of tax law, and improper purchases.

In one example, says the Post, “Trump spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself.”

That work is by the artist Michael Israel, who bills himself as “the original speed painter.” It came up at a benefit auction at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, in 2007. Trump’s wife Melania was the sole bidder; she opened with $10,000, then offered $20,000 for the canvas, which Israel had just painted.

“I understand it went to one of his golf courses,” Israel told the Post of the painting. The Trump Foundation declined to confirm or deny that statement to the Post.

Melania Trump and Donald Trump at the 2016 Time 100 gala, April 25, 2016. Photo Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan.

Melania Trump and Donald Trump at the 2016 Time 100 gala, April 25, 2016. Photo Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan.

On his website, Israel touts “luminaries and collectors” like Garth Brooks, Warren Buffett, Kevin Costner, Jay Leno, and Bruce Springsteen, as well as Fortune 500 CEOs.

A dramatic voiceover, accompanying a video showing Israel’s frenzied execution of his works, says, “Some people have described it as Cirque de Soleil meets Picasso … most people just say ‘wow’ and leave it at that.” As you watch the video, showing Israel leaping in the air and spinning the canvases on an easel, the website features a chat bot that invites you to talk with a “support agent.”

“I do paintings that reflect what people are feeling inside,” Israel told Fox 13 in 2015.

Just one painting of Israel’s has appeared on the secondary market, according to the artnet Price Database. Eagle, an undated canvas showing a bald eagle in front of the Stars and Stripes, was estimated at $1,000–2,000 at Ohio auctioneer Cowan’s.

It failed to sell.


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