Hunter Bidion attended his first art exhibition for potential buyers and celebrity guests including World Champion boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, Moby, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the artist behind Barack Obama‘s iconic Hope poster – despite White House claims the president’s son will have no idea who is buying his pieces.
Video and photos exclusively obtained by DailyMail.com show Hunter and his gallery manager Georges Bergès entertaining around 200 people at the famous Milk studios in Hollywood on Friday, including his wife Melissa and two of his daughters, 27-year-old Naomi Biden and Maisy Biden, 20.
Around 200 invites for the tightly-policed event went to a host of Los Angeles glitterati and potential buyers of Hunter’s art, the prices for which range between $75,000 and $500,000.
The eye-watering sums, unheard of for a debuting artist, have prompted serious concerns by former White House ethics chiefs, who fear that money for the works could be used as proxy political donations or to curry favor with President Joe Biden and his family.
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Hunter Biden was seen rubbing fists with World Champion Boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and rubbing elbows with other celebrities and wealthy potential buyers who turned up to see his paintings at his first art exhibition in Los Angeles Friday
The president’s son and his gallery manager Georges Bergès entertained about 200 guests as he made his professional art debut at Milk Studios in Hollywood
Hunter poses with a fan. Invitations for the tightly-policed event went to a host of Los Angeles glitterati and potential buyers of Hunter’s art, which were priced up to $500,000
The ‘pop-up’ event was held in one of the large white rooms at the Milk Studios, commonly used for high-end photo and film shoots, between 6:30pm and 9pm on Friday night.
A-listers recently shot at the studios include Beyoncé and Ariana Grande, and Jay Z has been pictured at the studio’s events.
Although Hunter’s first exhibition of his art work had been billed for September for months, the location for the exclusive viewing for potential patrons has been a closely-held secret.
But a clue emerged on Instagram when his oldest daughter posted a photo of herself yesterday in a white pleated coat, black heeled boots and handbag walking in front of a photographer’s white background set at Milk Studios, and others shared a picture of her at the event with her younger sister.
Naomi, Hunter’s daughter from his first marriage to Kathleen Buhle, is a Columbia law graduate and last month announced her engagement to fiancé Peter Neal.
Her younger sister Maisy is close to Obama’s daughter Sasha, and the two play basketball together.
According to gallery owner Georges Bergès, Hunter’s paintings range from photogenic to mixed media to the abstract. Ethics watchdogs had raised concerns ahead of the event that buyers could try to curry influence with the president by buying his son’s work for inflated sums. The White House claimed they were avoiding any ethical conflict by ensuring neither the president nor Hunter will know the identity of the buyers
Attendees included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, musician Moby who brought his pet dog, and artist Shepard Fairey, the creator of the Barack Obama Hope campaign poster that has since become a pop-culture icon. Pictured: Hunter’s art exhibit
A writer who attended the exhibition told DailyMail.com the crowd appeared ‘conservatively wealthy and would look to be buying the work’. It is unclear whether any of the paintings were sold at the event. His chosen substrates are canvas, yup paper, wood, and metal on which he affixes oil, acrylic, ink along with the written word
A writer who attended the exhibition told DailyMail.com the crowd appeared ‘conservatively wealthy and would look to be buying the work’ – following reports that the exhibition was aimed at potential rich patrons.
Attendees included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, musician Moby who brought his pet dog, and artist Shepard Fairey, the creator of the Barack Obama Hope campaign poster that has since become a pop-culture icon.
Garcetti was national co-chair of Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign and was recently nominated for US ambassador to India by the president.
One notable artist guest was British performer Millie Brown, famous for working with Lady Gaga and using unconventional methods, including drinking glasses of dyed milk then vomiting on a blank canvas.
Another top artist invited to see Hunter’s work was LA-born Gary Baseman, famous for his ABC/Disney animated series Teachers Pet and illustrations in the New York Times, Rolling Stone magazine and the board game Cranium.
‘I wanted to see what the son of the president’s crowd would be, what that would be like,’ LA-based writer Hannah Bhuiya, who attended the event, told DailyMail.com.
‘Most people looked like they were conservatively wealthy and would look to be buying the work. I think that’s who was invited and who came.
‘It was a very conservative crowd, everyone dressed well but nothing crazy, definitely not a fashion party. I can’t tell who was a Democrat or Republican. You could just see there was power there.’
Two of Hunter’s daughters, Naomi (left) and her younger sister Maisy (right) were seen supporting their father at the studio in photos shared on social media
The 27-year-old later shared a photo of herself Monday in a white pleated coat, black heeled boots and handbag walking in front of a photographer’s white background set at Milk Studios from Friday
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was among the guests to attend. Garcetti was national co-chair of Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign and was recently nominated for US ambassador to India by the president (pictured in January)
Bhuiya said Secret Service agents were in every corner, noticeable but ‘discreet’.
‘You can tell because they all had wires in their ears. They were all wearing khaki trousers, but very discreet around the edges of the room,’ she said.
‘There were huge cameras filming every inch of the event waiting for something to happen. But it was an art opening like every other.
‘The most interesting comment I overheard really was people surprised that the work was good, like ‘this is actually quite good’ or ‘I think this is quite good’.
‘They were surprised there was a diversity to the work. It was paintings, photography and a video.
‘Everything was large scale. If you want to sell pieces for a lot of money you must make them rather large for people’s large houses.’
Guests at the event were served sushi canapes, regular and rosé champagne.
According to politics site Mother Jones, proof of covid vaccination was required for entry, but only a handful of the guests wore masks at the indoor event.
The studio was manned by a large security presence, and later in the evening a violinist played for the crowd.
It is unclear whether any of the paintings were sold at the event.
Art critics say pieces by an untrained and debuting artist like Hunter would not usually fetch such high prices, and believe that his last name is significantly inflating their price.
Two former White House ethics chiefs have also voiced concerns that buyers could try to curry influence with the president by buying his son’s work for inflated sums.
The LA exhibition was one of two art shows Hunter’s work will be featured in this fall. A second is expected to take place in New York City
Hunter’s paintings were priced at $75,000 for a piece on paper to half a million dollars for large-scale paintings – an eye-popping sum for someone with no formal art qualifications
Hunter’s professional debut drew controversy as critics said pieces by an untrained and rookie artist would not usually fetch such high prices, and believe that his last name is significantly inflating their price
Hunter Biden’s artist profile on the Georges Bergès Gallery website
Sebastian Smee, the Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize–winning art critic, likened Hunter’s art to that of ‘a cafe painter’ in a CNN interview.
‘You see a certain kind of art in coffee shops, and some of it is OK and a lot of it is bad, and sometimes it’s surprisingly good. But you wouldn’t, unless you were related to the artist, spend more than $1,000 on it,’ Smee said.
While the New York Times described Hunter’s pieces as ‘leaning towards the surreal,’ Smee jibed: ‘People sometimes say ‘surreal’ when they mean ‘random.’
The White House claims they are avoiding any ethical conflict by ensuring neither the president nor Hunter will know the identity of the buyers.
However, a spokeswoman for Bergès admitted this summer that Hunter would attend the private viewing in LA, making it likely he met the buyers of his art on Friday.
‘I just think that’s absolutely appalling,’ Obama White House ethics chief Walter Shaub told Law & Crime’s ‘Objections’ podcast in August.
LA-based writer Hannah Bhuiya told DailyMail.com guests ‘were surprised there was a diversity to the work’ including paintings, photography and a video
Shaub said the White House ‘crossed the line’ by getting involved in the deal.
Hunter responded to critics in late July with two words: ‘F**k ’em.’
‘I never said what my art was going to cost or how much it would be priced at,’ Biden told art podcast Nota Bene.
Georges Bergès, the gallerist representing Hunter Biden
‘I’d be amazed if my art had sold for $10, just because the first time you ever go about it is the idea someone is attracted to your art, let alone that they would pay something for it.’
Bhuiya, who is friends with the studio owner, said she found Hunter’s work better than expected, and said he ‘wasn’t trying to overdo it’.
‘It wasn’t something crazy or challenging. He didn’t paint the wall black, he wasn’t trying to be something he’s not. He wasn’t trying to overdo it, but to just show what has come out of him over the last little while which must have been a very stressful time,’ she told DailyMail.com.
One painting, featuring a multi-colored background and a feminine, bald head, was inscribed with a quote from ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides.
‘One path only is left for us to speak of, namely, that It is. In it are very many tokens that what is, is uncreated and indestructible, alone, complete, immovable and without end. Nor was it ever, nor will it be, for now it is, all at once, a continuous one,’ the quote on the painting said.
Texts and recordings from Hunter’s laptop, obtained by DailyMail.com, show he has a keen interest in transcendentalism and compared himself to characters from Greek history and myths.
‘There was abstract color video work that seemed to be a stop motion video of paint drops which was quite hypnotic,’ Bhuiya said.
‘There were paintings which were in a maze or grid, which seemed to hold a pattern or a person’s face inside if you looked at it a certain way, and a few more abstract works.
‘There was a strange triptych of red, white and blue panels with a bird flying across them.
‘It was kind of a mix between expressionistic art and a bit of decor that could match the couch. It was bright, colorful and something that you could put in your house without much trouble.
‘It was beautifully displayed, you could really see the work and there was a lot of space around it,’ the writer added.
‘Hunter seemed like a very nice and personable chap. He was introduced to hundreds of people throughout the evening by his wife and others. He seemed to be really nice and friendly with everyone.’