I thought it was “Groundhog Day.” Only in this version, Punxsutawney Phil had a substance-abuse disorder, a nasty child support case with a former stripper, and a lost laptop that could make life hell for his high-profile father.
In early March — as I probably had better stuff to worry about — I was fixated by a ridiculous puff piece by The New York Times’ Adam Popescu about Robert Hunter Biden — the 50-year-old son of then-Democratic front-runner Joe Biden — who was starting a career as an artist.
There wasn’t a whole lot of talk about what the art looked like, because it looked a lot like this:
Painting “keeps me away from people and places where I shouldn’t be,” said Hunter Biden, well known for his foreign dealings and his battles with drug addiction https://t.co/4kWHygfyJd
— New York Times Arts (@nytimesarts) February 28, 2020
Hey, I had those backgrounds on my iPhone 4s, too!
Anyhow, the piece focused primarily on how Hunter Biden was trying to heal through art and how mean Republicans were continuing to ask for an investigation for his work for Ukrainian energy firm Burisma even though, according to The Times, “There has been no proof of any wrongdoing by Mr. Biden related to his business dealings in Ukraine.”
There also had been no serious investigation into it, but hey …
The piece hardly got into the seamier side of Biden’s life aside from the fact he was an addict — which, that’s terrible, but the fact he’d fathered a kid out of wedlock with an adult dancer and tried to avoid paying child support any way possible barely got discussed, as did any talk of his foreign dealings without saying there was no evidence to support looking into them.
Well, in the interim, Biden has been the target of a tax fraud investigation for those foreign dealings for some time and he’d also forgotten about a laptop with some pretty important information on it that was part of that investigation.
Vanity Fair’s Emily Kirkpatrick knew about this when she wrote a piece in December about his first solo art show!
Mind you, the piece was a composite of other pieces, particularly the first report by the New York Post. However, she was a bit easier on him than the Post is — and really, who isn’t? — writing that Biden “has not only a Department of Justice investigation into his taxes to contend with, but also his first solo art show to prepare for next year.”
“The president-elect’s son is reportedly in the midst of signing a deal to be represented as an artist by Georges Bergès Gallery in New York City with a solo exhibition in the works for next year,” she wrote, citing the Post report.
“The venture capitalist turned artist, whose studio is in the pool house of his Hollywood Hills home, creates his work with a metal straw he uses to blow alcohol ink onto Japanese Yupo paper, creating abstract layers of colors and concentric circles,” she noted.
She also used one of the most complimentary quotes from The New York Times’ piece, the one where he said his painting “puts my energy toward something positive,” adding that, “It keeps me away from people and places where I shouldn’t be.”
“The one thing I have left is my art. It’s the one thing they can’t take away from me or conflate with anything else,” he said.
Actually, they can take it away from you for a few years if you get convicted of tax fraud.
She mentioned the tax fraud investigation again and then conflated it with this: “He’s also already made one very influential opponent in the art world—Jerry Saltz.
The New York Magazine critic dubbed his work ‘Generic Post Zombie Formalism illustration’ and added, ‘The background doesn’t always have to be white, you big baby.”
Actually, Saltz was a bit nastier than that if you read the Artnet piece in which he offered his assessment of Hunter Biden’s art.
“Lose the big signature at once; forget the Kusama dots altogether; experiment with the surface and color and tools. Really consider the whole-page as a space and not make everything derivative all-over composition.
By “Kusama dots,” he’s talking about Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese abstract artist who combines a “that could have been done by my child” aesthetic with a “that could have been done for my child” one:
What’s in a dot? For Yayoi Kusama, everything. ⚫
In this drawing, the artist contemplates the infinity of the universe and one’s place within it: a single dot among many.
— MoMA The Museum of Modern Art (@MuseumModernArt) January 8, 2021
Same! I was supposed to see a Yayoi Kusama exhibition last year but it got cancelled because of the pandemic. Clinging on to the pics I took at a previous one she did at Victoria Miro 😍 pic.twitter.com/35FLscwycK
— Lucy Soares-Turner (@lucysoaressmith) January 6, 2021
Scott Indrisek, former deputy editor of Artsy, was less kind.
“Hunter’s paintings have a kind of vaguely scientific, vaguely psychedelic vibe that reminds me of Fred Tomaselli — if Fred Tomaselli started making art for dermatologists’ waiting rooms,” he said.
Just so we’re on the same page:
— Design Milk (@designmilk) November 20, 2020
“But then again, the process here seems more important than the finished product,” Indrisek continued. “I guess it’s important that wounded men of a certain age and privileged background have the opportunity to find themselves creatively … it’s just too bad that everyone else is expected to pay attention.”
Also, both Vanity Fair and the New York Post missed the best anecdote from Artnet’s coverage of Hunter Biden, this one from a Jan. 2, 2020, story that dealt with how he got his start in the art world (aside from having a rich father and a bankable name).
“For a period in 2018, Biden could be seen stopping by art openings and parties on the Lower East Side, and attended a runway show for the hip downtown fashion brand Lou Dallas,” they reported. “Sources said that many of his art-world connections came through his relationship with Zoe Kestan, the lingerie entrepreneur who is better known by her Instagram handle @weed_slut_420.”
That feels a bit like “Groundhog Day” too, if you ask me.
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