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The New York City gallery exhibiting HUNTER BIDEN’s work this fall has estimated his paintings are worth between $75,000 to $500,000.
We are not artists. We are pretty bad at it, actually, so we wanted to ask some experts if Biden’s work is actually worth that amount — and if it’s any good. West Wing Playbook spoke to four art critics and academics, some of whom said Hunter’s work, itself, isn’t half-bad. But as to our first question, it was a resounding, “no.”
Despite the Biden White House’s attempts to protect against undue influence, they say the reason for the five- to six-figure estimates is clearly Hunter Biden’s last name.
According to the George Bergès Gallery, Biden’s paintings “range from photographic to mixed-media to abstract works on canvas, yupo paper, wood, and metal. He incorporates oil, acrylic, ink, and the written word to create unique experiences that have become his signature.”
There are 11 paintings online, including an untitled one on yupo paper — a type of recyclable tree-free synthetic paper — of what appears to be a dragon breathing fire.
“Way better than I thot [sic] they’d be! More particular. Some sustained attention clearly evident.” That’s how GEOFFREY YOUNG, a New York poet, art critic and curator described the younger Biden’s art to West Wing Playbook in an email.
As for the price range, Young said it is extremely high, especially for someone the New York Times recently called an “undiscovered artist.” The 2019 article described some 100 paintings Biden had created in his Hollywood Hills “poolhouse-turned-art studio.”
“Traditionally, young artists are a bargain, and if they begin to sustain a career, gallerists raise the prices incrementally, as they should,” Young said. “Paintings are only as valuable as what some customer will pay for ‘em…he’s complexly famous, but not yet for art. Guess people will pay for a known last name.”
BEN DAVIS, a national art critic who has already written in length that Biden shouldn’t be selling his work, said the prices are not common for any new artist.
“For an emerging artist doing his first show, this would put Hunter Biden in the top, top tier of what was thinkable,” Davis said. “These are prices for an already successful artist.”
Davis gave us some context. Artists like DANA SCHUTZ, ALICE NEEL and STANLEY WHITNEY, all well-known and successful artists, have recently sold their art for around $500,000.
“So that is the company that Hunter Biden’s art, which no one has seen, is keeping,” Davis said.
“There is a lot of bluff and bluster and marketing in art prices. Dealers lie about them all the time to inflate values, and George Bergès may be bluffing and talking up Biden’s prices,” Davis said. “There’s no science to such things. But it is absolutely, 100 percent certain that what is being sold is the Biden name and story.”
Others agreed the high price point correlates with the family name.
“You’re paying for the brush with fame,” JOHN PLOFF, an art professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, said. “That’s like a campaign contribution, right?”
In an effort to protect against conflict of interest, the White House says there is an agreement in place with the gallery that will keep the art buyers’ identities a secret from Hunter, the president, the White House and the public. They did not have anything further to add for this piece.
“In the case of anyone who has a celebrity name outside of art, as with Hunter Biden, it’s clearly the name of the artist that’s driving the price and if it sells, then that’s probably also the motivating factor for the person who buys it,” said TABISH KHAN, a London art critic.
Khan said he wouldn’t critique work he hasn’t seen in person, with limited knowledge of the work, but, “an initial online glance suggests there’s nothing new or challenging about his work.”
“As to whether I think it’s worth the asking price, I don’t think I’ll ever spend that much money on a work of art nor be in a position where I have that amount of cash in hand,” Khan said. “And if I did, I wouldn’t spend it on a work by Hunter Biden.”
We also called some Washington area art appraisers and gallery owners. They did not want to touch this topic with a ten-foot pole.
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Warning, this one is hard: President BARACK OBAMA did not attend the Olympics in 2010, 2012, 2014 or 2016. Who did he select to lead the U.S. delegation to the Opening Ceremonies in each of these four games? (it’s a different person each year).
(Answer at the bottom.)
MASKS ARE BACK — The White House is mandating masks for all staffers again, per an internal email someone helpfully leaked to us.
The email acknowledged that not everyone on the White House campus is vaccinated even as Biden himself is contemplating mandates. “The vast majority of those working on campus are fully vaccinated,” read the email signed by the White House’s Covid-19 Operations team.
(On July 23rd, Psaki declined to say in the briefing what percentage of White House staff were vaccinated.)
The White House’s operations team initially wrote that the policy would “become effective at the start of business tomorrow” only to write a follow-up email “to clarify our earlier message.”
“All individuals on campus should comply with this update immediately and no later than start of business tomorrow,” they wrote.
SO MUCH FOR SHOT GIRL SUMMER: At least two reporters wore masks in the briefing room today. Last week, we didn’t spot any masks. Expect to see a lot more: The White House Correspondents Association emailed reporters this afternoon that it is “reimposing its mask requirement for all indoor spaces at the White House.”
DOOCE ON THE LOOSE: Fox News’ White House reporter PETER DOOCY pushed press secretary JEN PSAKI on new masking guidance for the vaccinated. “If it’s a pandemic of the unvaccinated still then why do vaccinated people need to put the masks back on?” he asked.
Psaki pointed to a chart showing how the Delta variant was hurting the unvaccinated. Doocy followed up, asking: “But if the vaccines work, which this sign says that they do, then why do people who have had the vaccine need to now wear masks the same as people who have not had any?”
Psaki’s response was unsatisfying to some on the right. “Because the public health leaders in our administration have made the determination based on data that that is a way to make sure they’re protected, their loved ones are protected, and that’s an extra step given the transmissibility of the virus.”
“This ain’t gonna cut it,” GOP operative JOSH HOLMES tweeted.
RELATED: The CDC’s revamped mask guidance for the vaccinated is here. And here is ERIN BANCO and ADAM CANCRYN’s write up on the new policy.
JILL’s CHIEF IS OUT — First lady JILL BIDEN’s chief of staff JULISSA REYNOSO PANTALEON is leaving the White House just six months in to be the ambassador to Spain and Andorra. That staffing shake up was revealed in Biden’s announcement today of nine nominations for ambassador and other senior administration posts at the Labor, Agriculture and Homeland Security Departments.
Asked why she is leaving so early in the administration, her press secretary MICHAEL LaROSA emailed that, “While the timing of this opportunity came up a little faster than they both expected, the First Lady was totally supportive of Reynoso being considered again as an Ambassador, and advocated on her behalf. She’s family and we’re going to miss her terribly.”
Any update on who her new chief will be? LaRosa said “nope.”
ANOTHER NOTABLE NOMINATION — Among the four ambassador nominees Biden announced this afternoon: MARK GITENSTEIN, former U.S. ambassador to Romania, and, as we wrote in December, a “secret Biden power broker.” He has been tapped as a representative to the European Union.
IN QUARANTINE — Homeland Security Secretary ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS is working remotely because he was in contact with a department official who later tested positive for Covid-19, a DHS spokesperson told DANIEL LIPPMAN and BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN. “The Secretary is fully vaccinated, has no symptoms, and has tested negative twice,” a spokesperson said.
ANNIVERSARY PLANS — Biden is expected to attend the 9/11 memorial in New York City to mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Lippman and CHRIS CADELAGO report, a visit that will be “particularly significant with our withdrawal from Afghanistan,” a White House official told them. At the ceremony, Biden is expected to strike a tone that is “in large measure a sort of arc of the last two decades,” the person said.
KIM TO DOJ — The Senate confirmed TODD KIM to be the assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources, 58 to 41. Republican Sens. ROY BLUNT (Mo.), SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (W.V.), SUSAN COLLINS (Maine), JOHN CORNYN (Texas), LINDSEY GRAHAM (S.C.), CHUCK GRASSLEY (Iowa) and LISA MURKOWSKI (Alaska) voted with Democrats to approve Kim’s nomination.
Latino voters moved towards Republicans. Now Biden wants them back (NYT’s Jennifer Medina and Lisa Lerer)
Troops to stay put in Syria even as Biden seeks to end America’s ‘forever wars’ (Our Lara Seligman)
Europeans increasingly frustrated as White House maintains Trump-era Covid travel restrictions (Washington Post’s Rick Noack, Reis Thebault and Quentin Ariès)
He met with Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) at the White House to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations. Then he visited the office of the director of national intelligence in McLean, Virginia, where he toured the National Counterterrorism Center Watch Floor with Director of National Intelligence AVRIL HAINES and NCTC Director CHRISTY ABIZAID and delivered remarks to staff.
She gave virtual remarks to the National Bar Association. Later in the afternoon, she hosted a conversation about voting rights with Interior Secretary DEB HAALAND and native leaders from Alaska Native and American Indian communities.
Before White House deputy press secretary CHRIS MEAGHER spun reporters, he was one. From 2008 to 2013, Meagher wrote for the Santa Barbara Independent, where he covered crime, courts and local elections. He even moderated a 2012 congressional debate between Republican ABEL MALDONADO and Rep. LOIS CAPPS (D-Calif.), whom he went on to work for (his last name is pronounced “marr” so the paper dubbed him the “Meagher-derator”).
But it was one of his softer features that caught our eye. In 2011, Meagher elbowed his way into covering the royal visit by PRINCE WILLIAM and KATE MIDDLETON with a memorable newspaper lede: “What should I wear?”
The whole piece is worth reading, but we wanted to highlight his riff on his outfit deliberations, while crushing a little bit on Middleton:
“If it’s not plaid and button-down and doesn’t match with, well, jeans, it’s probably not in my wardrobe rotation. But this was the Royals! And I had heard that Kate would be dressing herself throughout the duration of the newlyweds’ weeklong trip to North America, so I put the pressure on myself to do the same.
For the trip to Santa Barbara, Kate settled on a fancy chinoiserie silk dress from the Spring 2011 collection of British designer Jenny Packham. I went with my boat shoes, non-jean pants, and a nice button-down from J. Crew’s 2006 collection. And I must say, we both looked marvelous, though I will give the edge to the beautiful Kate.”
Maybe he’ll do a follow-up story if the couple visits the White House.
For the 2010 Olympics, Obama sent then-Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill. In 2012, he sent first lady MICHELLE OBAMA. University of California President JANET NAPOLITANO got to represent in 2014 and JOHN KERRY went in 2016.
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Edited by Emily Cadei