Foreign nationals could be allowed to bid on Hunter Biden’s artwork, which is poised to hit the market in the fall for up to $500,000, raising alarms with ethics watchdogs who say the art sales could leave the Biden administration vulnerable to foreign influence operations.
The art dealer representing Hunter Biden said the names of the buyers will be kept confidential, a common practice, according to Fox News. The White House press office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on whether foreign nationals will be permitted to buy the pieces, or whether the buyers will be vetted by White House ethics lawyers and disclosed to the public.
"This is clearly a way for [Hunter Biden] to earn money, a lot of money, without anybody knowing who’s paying him," said Tom Anderson, director of the Government Integrity Project at the National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog group.
The sale is reigniting concerns about Hunter Biden’s business interests, which became an election issue for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, with Republicans accusing the younger Biden of profiting off his father’s name and position in Ukraine and China. The silence from the White House also comes as President Biden has pledged to increase government transparency and enforce rigorous ethical standards.
Anderson said the White House should publicly disclose the names of the buyers—even if the gallery doesn’t—and have the sales reviewed by ethics lawyers.
"Legally, [Biden] doesn’t have to disclose anything. But just for the office of the presidency, it’s just the right thing to do to be transparent and to let everybody know who’s paying for what," said Anderson. "Why would you want to jeopardize everything the administration is trying to do with something like this?"
The paintings will go on sale for between $75,000 and $500,000, although they could fetch higher bids from motivated buyers.
Art is often used to bribe public officials in China, where the practice is referred to as "yahui" or "elegant bribery," according to the New York Times.
"In some cases, an official will receive a work of art with instructions to put it up for auction; a businessman will use it as the currency for a bribe, purchasing the art at an inflated price and giving the official a tidy profit," reported the Times in 2013.
Although Hunter Biden has not exhibited his work before, the paintings are expected to sell for significantly higher than most art in the United States. The median price for a contemporary art piece was $1,300 in 2017, according to ArtPrice.com, which tracks art market information.