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Hunter Biden's art deal will keep buyers' identities a secret

When Hunter Biden's art is sold later this year, the public won't know who's buying his paintings —and neither will Hunter Biden, the White House, or his father, President Biden.  According to a White House official, any buyer's identity will be kept secret by the gallery owner.    

However, buyers may choose to make their identities known. 

Another source familiar with the sales arrangement told CBS News that the New York gallery owner who is showing Hunter Biden's paintings, George Bergès, will have the ability to reject offers that raise alarms.  Potential conflicts could include offers above the asking price from buyers seeking political influence with the Biden family. 

Bergès estimates that Hunter Biden's work could fetch between $75,000 and $500,000 per painting, according to a spokesperson for the gallery.  According to Artnet, Biden has no formal artistic training and has only begun working as an artist full time in recent years. Art prices are subjective and vary considerably, and paintings by celebrity artists can be overvalued.

The decision to reject offers above market value, against Bergès financial interest, will be left to him. And since the buyer's identity is shielded, only Bergès, not the public, will be able to scrutinize the transaction. 

Bergès will be compensated for selling the paintings, CBS News confirmed with his gallery's spokesperson. He will retain a percentage from the sales comparable to the arrangements his gallery has with other artists, though the spokesperson declined to provide the exact percentage. Typically, galleries take around 50% of a sale. 

A second White House official told CBS News on Friday the potential $500,000 price tag "shocked" some White House officials when the detail was first reported by Artnet and then by the Washington Post on Thursday.   

It is not clear the White House could legally stop Hunter Biden, a private citizen, from profiting on his art. The White House expressed satisfaction with the arrangement that is being implemented. 

"After careful consideration, a system has been established to allow Hunter Biden to work in his profession within reasonable safeguards," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. "Of course he has the right to pursue and artistic career just like any child of a president has the right to pursue a career. But all interactions regarding the selling of art and the setting of prices will be handled by a professional gallerist adhering to the highest industry standards, and any offer our of the normal course would be rejected out of hand."

The president has also championed his administration's commitment to transparency in government. Yet Psaki presented the secrecy of the anonymous-buyer arrangement as a virtue.    

"The gallerist will not share information about buyers or prospective buyers including their identities with Hunter Biden or the administration which provides quite a level of protection and transparency," Psaki said.  

Hunter Biden's attorney, Chris Clark, has not responded to inquiries from CBS News.  

"[Hunter] Biden has been a lifelong artist that has devoted his artistic career to both the written word and the visual arts," the George Bergès Gallery website says. "A lawyer by trade who now devotes his life to the creative arts - he brings a myriad of experiences creating powerful and impactful pieces of art."    

Six separate paintings are listed on the gallery's website, including a work described by Artnet as a "self-portrait" that includes a poem from Hunter Biden's recently released memoir. The gallery is holding two art shows for BIden's work later this year, according to the gallery spokesperson. 

"I don't paint from emotion or feeling, which I think are both very ephemeral," Hunter Biden told Artnet in June. "For me, painting is much more about kind of trying to bring forth what is, I think, the universal truth."   

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Republicans pounced on Hunter Biden's business dealings with a Ukrainian energy company while his father oversaw U.S.-Ukraine policy as vice president. Former President Trump argued the Ukraine deal showed impropriety in the Biden family.  

Hunter Biden addresses laptop reports, ongoing federal investigation into his taxes 06:19

Joe Biden stood by his son — and the foreign deal — during a Democratic primary debate in October 2019. "My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong," Biden said at the time.   

In December, federal prosecutors announced they had been investigating Hunter Biden's taxes, beginning in 2018. 

The Trump family also drew intense scrutiny for profiting from its eponymous hotel and golf business during Mr. Trump's presidency. 

Hunter Biden, while promoting his memoir in April, continued to defend his previous foreign business actions but told CBS News' Anthony Mason he would not make the Ukrainian deal again.   

His art business venture follows Ella Emhoff, the daughter of Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, signing a contract with IMG modeling agency eight days after her appearance on Inauguration Day turned heads.    

On Wednesday, Emhoff appeared in her second-ever fashion show — Balenciaga — according to Town and Country.    

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