is expected to meet potential buyers at two art exhibitions where his paintings will be on display later this year, according to a spokesperson for the New York gallery selected to sell works of art made by the president’s son.
The exhibits, a small private affair in Los Angeles and a larger exhibit in New York, will give Biden the opportunity to interact with potential buyers of his paintings, which the gallery expects to sell for up to $ 500,000. .
When asked if Hunter Biden would attend both events, Georges Berges gallery spokesperson Robin Davis replied, âOh yes. Gladly. He’s looking forward to it. It’s like someone. one that’s making his debut in the world. And sure enough, he’ll be there. “
Davis also said that at both art shows, “everyone will be screenedâ¦ so the appropriate one will be present.”
Hunter Biden’s appearance at shows, where he will presumably socialize with potential buyers, is apparently at odds with an agreement with the gallery owner that aims to keep the identities of buyers a secret from Biden, President Biden, the White House. and the public.
Some government ethics experts have expressed concern that buyers might buy Hunter Biden’s art to gain influence with his father, Mr. Biden. Keeping buyers anonymous is meant to guard against this.
“Well, I think it would be difficult for an anonymous person that we don’t know and that Hunter Biden doesn’t know how to have influence,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a recent press briefing. “So that’s protection.”
In response to questions about Hunter Biden attending gallery events with potential buyers, White House spokesman Andrew Bates pointed to a July 8 statement that read: “The President set the standards highest ethics in any administration in American history, and his family’s commitment to rigorous processes like this are a prime example. “
A source familiar with the matter told CBS News that Hunter Biden will not be discussing potential purchases, pricing, or anything related to the sale of artwork.
But that begs the question: how will the public ever know what was discussed? There is no known enforcement mechanism or disclosure requirement built into the ethics agreement. Conversations with potential buyers during the visits would almost certainly remain private.
Chris Clark, an attorney for Hunter Biden, did not respond to a request for comment.
Under the agreement blessed by the White House, only the gallery owner, Georges Berges, would first know the identity of the buyer or the purchase price. However, buyers could choose to market themselves. It would also be up to Berges to reject suspicious buyers or inflated offers.
Walter Shaub, former head of the government ethics office under the Obama administration, said the arrangement was up to the White House to “contract out government ethics” to the owner of the art gallery.
And he said that Hunter Biden’s participation in art exhibitions increases ethical concerns.
“Is Hunter Biden going around the art exhibit blindfolded?” Shaub said. “It just shows that the focus is not on government ethics. It just shows that a president’s child can benefit from the presidency.”
Berges has already advocated for the relationship between artists and art collectors in a promotional video from 2015.
“I think the relationship between the artist and the collector – it was a very unified relationship where it was very personal … The relationship today tends to be a little colder, more corporate – there is less. interaction between artist, collector and gallery owner, in fact very few collectors even now meet the artist, âBerges said in the video.
âMy goal is to really establish a gallery that has global reach with affiliates around the world working together to really re-establish this relationship that I think is important,â added Berges.
Davis said Biden and Berges had known each other for two years. According to Artnet, Biden has no formal art training and has only started working as a full-time artist in recent years. Berges opened the gallery in 2015 and its website features 20 artists.
âHe really wants to help Hunter and for people to recognize his talent,â Davis said. “So you know, I think everything is going better and better.”
In 2016, Berges was sued by an investor in its gallery, Ingrid Arneberg, for fraud and breach of contract. The lawsuit alleged that Arneberg, an artist herself, had invested $ 500,000 to expand the gallery and that Berges had deposited it into her personal bank account to cover her expenses. Berges sued for $ 4.5 million, citing, among other things, libel and breach of fiduciary duty. The two settled in 2018 and the terms were not disclosed.
An Arneberg lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
In May 1998, Berges, then a 23-year-old student, was arrested in California and charged with assault with a deadly weapon and “terrorist threats,” according to public records from the Santa Cruz Police Department.
Few details of the incident are available in public records, but a report provided by the police department states that “officers responded to a report of a scuffle inside the residence involving a suspect with a knife. No injuries reported. ” Davis said Berges had an argument with a roommate.
Court records show Berges was sentenced to three years probation, but Davis said the felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors and ultimately dismissed. Santa Cruz County officials declined to clarify the outcome of the case. Berges never served probation, Davis said, downplaying the incident.
Four months after the arrest, Berges filed for personal bankruptcy. His creditors included credit card companies, a bank, a jeweler and a furniture retailer Pier One Imports, according to federal court records. The bankruptcy proceedings ended three months later.
âHe was a kid and he had credit card debt,â Davis said.
Ever since the art deal became public when it was reported by The Washington Post, CBS News has requested interviews with Hunter Biden and Berges. Davis said the gallery will only answer questions about Biden’s artwork, not the ethics agreement.
Berges declined a later interview request on Wednesday.
CBS News attempted to contact several former gallery employees to learn more about Berges and the gallery’s operations. Davis called a CBS News reporter to say it wasn’t “over the edge.”
Rachel Bailey contributed to this story.