Hunter Biden’s art dealer tells House GOP to ask him about paintings
WASHINGTON – A lawyer for Hunter Biden’s art dealer has replied to a House committee, which seeks information about sales of his paintings, suggesting lawmakers deal with the president’s son instead.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, asked New York art dealer Georges Berges for documents and testimony about who was buying Hunter Biden’s paintings and for how much. Comer voiced concerns the high prices could buy influence with the Biden administration.
But Berges’ lawyer, William Pittard, replied in a letter that ethical arrangements with the White House and a recent Supreme Court decision prevented him from providing the information Comer requested. Pittard suggested Comer pose his questions to Hunter Biden and his lawyer, Abbe Lowell, “to consider an appropriate path forward.”
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Hunter Biden’s artwork is 1 focus of wide-ranging investigations
Comer’s request is one piece of wide-ranging House Republican investigations into the Biden administration that lawmakers argue were lacking in recent years. Comer has focused initially on Hunter Biden, through his laptop and his art, to investigate lucrative foreign business deals and art sales he said could potentially influence President Joe Biden.
The committee said in a statement Berges should produce the documents requested. “We find the objections unconvincing and incoherent,” the statement said.
Comer’s request for information about art sales is contentious because Hunter Biden doesn’t work for the government.
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Lowell has already replied to the committee that its request for information about foreign influence peddling was illegitimate for pursuing a private citizen and had no valid legislative function.
“Peddling your own inaccurate and baseless conclusions under the guise of a real investigation, turns the Committee into ‘Wonderland’ and you into the Queen of Hearts shouting, ‘sentence first, verdict afterwards,’” Lowell wrote in a four-page letter to Comer.
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Georges Berges kept artwork details private to avoid ethical concerns, lawyer says
Pittard said Berges arranged to keep information about buyers of Hunter Biden’s art and the prices confidential, to avoid ethical concerns with his father.
“In light of these considerations, providing the documents and information requested in your letter seemingly would defeat the efforts of Mr. Biden and the White House to avoid the ‘serious ethical concerns’ that you raise,” Pittard told Comer. “Mr. Berges hopes that you and Mr. Biden can resolve that tension.”
Pittard also cited a Supreme Court decision about demands from Comer’s panel and two others in the investigation of former President Donald Trump, in a case involving his longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA.
The high court ruled “transactions by the President and his family” exceeded the House’s authority, Pittard wrote. The high court also noted demands for personal papers might “aim to harass the President or render him complaisant to the humors of the Legislature,” Pittard wrote.
Mix of contemporary, historical Indigenous craftwork in Winnipeg exhibit shows art ‘still living and thriving’
A new exhibit in Winnipeg blends the old with the new to show that while Indigenous craftwork has a rich history, it’s also still very much a living artform.
The exhibit, called Gathering, features Indigenous beadwork, embroidery and quillwork from five contemporary artists alongside pieces from the collections of 11 Manitoba museums — with some items dating back to the 1800s.
Mixing contemporary pieces in with the historical ones is an important element of the exhibit, says Margaret Firlotte, a Red River Michif artist and the exhibit’s project manager.
“This art form is not gone, it’s not archaic, it’s not archived. It’s still living and thriving today,” she said.
The exhibit — presented by the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library in partnership with the Ross House Museum — also offers a rare opportunity to see some of the historical work on display.
Smaller museums in Manitoba often have Indigenous craftwork that’s not on permanent display, or which requires a one-on-one appointment to view, Firlotte said.
“We wanted to honour those pieces, and bring them to light, and just give them the proper space and respect that they deserve.”
Andrea Reichert, the exhibit’s curator, said an important part of the outreach for it included informal viewing sessions of the pieces for Indigenous communities.
“It was an opportunity for them to see it up close, to compare things side by side,” she told CBC.
Preparation for the exhibit began about a year ago, but Firlotte said she wouldn’t call her work on it a “labour of love.”
“Labour is the wrong word, because if you enjoy beadwork, working alongside with these pieces and with the communities, then it’s not really work,” she said.
Putting the exhibit together involved extensive research and outreach to museums and Indigenous communities in western and northern Manitoba.
Artwork from museums in Dauphin, Portage la Prairie, Souris, The Pas and Winnipegosis is displayed in the exhibit, alongside works from several Winnipeg museums.
The exhibit, which opened on March 3, has drawn visitors from Alberta and British Columbia who came just to see the artwork, along with strong local support, said Firlotte.
“Opening night, just seeing the community come together to welcome and celebrate these pieces, it was really great. It just made it all worth it, for sure.”
Exhibit may help put names to work
The exhibit is the first time Tashina Houle-Schlup’s work has been displayed in an art show. Her quilled moccasins are called Abinoojiiyens Makizinan, which translates to “baby moccasins” in Anishinaabemowin.
The Ebb and Flow First Nation member has been making quillwork since she was a child. She began to sell her pieces as a teenager, but never imagined being featured in an art exhibit.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling and it makes me want to do more of these,” she said.
The mix of contemporary and historical pieces in the exhibit shows that Indigenous crafts aren’t going anywhere, Houle-Schlup told CBC.
“Quillwork is still thriving. There was a point where quillwork was nearly disappearing.”
Her moccasins were made in honour of Indigenous children, “as they are the future of our people,” says Houle-Schlup’s artist statement, as well as in “remembrance of our babies and children that were lost to residential school.”
Reichert says in addition to offering historical perspective, the exhibit may also help curators learn more about some of the pieces.
The names of the artists behind many of the historical pieces — such as an embroidered smoked-hide jacket made by women from Norway House between 1910 and 1920 — have been lost, which is not uncommon, Reichert said.
QR codes are displayed throughout the exhibit that will let people submit any information they may have on the historical pieces or the artists behind them.
“When the works go back to the different museums, the research that we’ve collected will go back to those museums as well,” said Reichert.
“Reconciliation and decolonization is an important part of the museum community, and being able to interpret the works with correct information is a really important first step.”
Public programming and a long-term website with photos and research collected on the pieces are also part of the exhibit.
The exhibit has a particular focus on pieces made before or around the early 1900s, because the artistic patterns from that era contain many cultural, familial and regional ties, according to Firlotte.
“You’re able to tell which pattern comes from which community, which is really cool,” she said. “You’re able to tell if a piece is probably more Métis than it is Dakota, or if it’s Cree or Anishinaabe.”
Response to the exhibit has been fantastic, said Reichert.
“All of the people who come have just been blown away by the work, and the breadth of it, and seeing it all in one place.”
Gathering is on display at the C2 Centre for Craft at 329 Cumberland Ave. until April 29.
‘Women, Life, Freedom’: Protest art exhibition comes to Art Windsor-Essex this weekend
A couple dozen visual artists are coming together this Saturday for an exhibition focused on the oppression of women, curated by a Windsor woman who escaped Iran three years ago.
Maryam Safarzadeh came to Canada after leaving Iran with her son and daughter to escape the country’s government.
The visual artist made it her goal to curate a gallery of protest art to shine a light on the plight of oppressed women around the world, including her home country of Iran.
“I’m in a free country. If my people, if women can’t talk, I’m gonna be their voice,” said Safarzadeh, who points out women who do this in Iran face prison time.
“You shouldn’t have a filter, you should just express your feelings, talk about what you want to talk about,” she said.
Her show “Women, Life, Freedom” brings together 27 artists from all over the globe, each with a story to tell.
One of those artists is Kobra Safi, who escaped the Taliban rule of Afghanistan six months ago. The trained surgeon started painting while in a refugee camp and the passion turned into a great outlet for her pain and sorrow.
This weekend, Safi is taking part in her first art exhibition.
“We have the same pain and that’s why we work together and we made the art about ourselves,” said Safi, whose painting depicts women of various professions hanging from a tree while the Taliban look upon them with pointed guns.
“I want them to know what is going inside of me and what is going on with Afghan woman,” she said. “That’s why I like to express something inside the paintings for them to know their stories.”
Asaph Maurer has a completely different story. The Windsor artist explains he was part of an extremist Christian Cult that moved around between Mexico, the United States and India. He managed to escape 11 years ago.
“The minute that I heard about this exhibition from Maryam, I instantly related to the concept of suppression of freedom of expression, whether that be through art or through dress,” he said.
Maurer painted a picture of a woman who was shot in the eye for speaking up. It symbolizes oppression and control, he said, through violence, noting it’s an uncomfortable reality that people need to see.
“A lot of these images are not beautiful, scenic landscapes that you can put in your living room,” he admits. “However, I think that one way to get involved is to attend exhibitions like this and feel the discomfort.”
Judy Chappus drew her inspiration from a woman she met at a public shower. Chappus said the woman agreed to be photographed and has since become the subject of many of her paintings. This one fits, Chappus said, because she exuded confidence, power and presence.
“She’s almost the opposite of what is expected of women in Iran,” said Chappus. “I liked how I can associate this with taking the hijab off because I feel like if women did that, they would just release all this incredible power.”
Women, Life, Freedom goes on display at Art Windsor-Essex Saturday, April 1 from 12 to 5 p.m. with the official program running 2 to 5 p.m.
The art pieces will be on display at Sho Art Studios for the two weeks following.
Safarzadeh is excited to lay it all out on the line.
“I can’t go back to Iran, because they’re going to arrest me for sure. But I don’t care,” she said.
“This is supporting these women. And this is about talking about the truth, even it’s not beautiful.”
Art collector Myriam Ullens killed outside her home in Belgium, allegedly by her stepson
Myriam Ullens, a major collector who, with her husband Guy Ullens, supported and championed Chinese contemporary art, was killed outside the couple’s home in the village of Ohain south of Brussels today (29 March) according to multiple reports in the Belgian press. She was 70 years old. The reports claim she was shot by her stepson Nicolas Ullens, who has been detained by police. Her husband, Guy, reportedly survived the incident.
Myriam and Guy were in their car outside their home around 10am when Nicolas fired on his stepmother, who died at the scene, according to La Libre. Myriam and Nicolas had been in a protracted dispute over issues of inheritance, according to multiple reports.
Myriam and Guy Ullens, who married in 1999, have been important and influential art collectors for decades. They started out collecting classical Chinese scroll paintings, but eventually shifted their attention to contemporary art. In 2007, they opened the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing—considered at the time to be the first contemporary art museum in China—which showed works from their collection of more than 2,000 works. In 2017 they sold the museum, renamed the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, to a group of investors; they continued and broadened their collecting activities under the banner of the Swiss-based Fondation Guy & Myriam Ullens.
In 2004 Myriam, who went by Mimi and was a cancer survivor, founded the Mimi Foundation to create centres within hospitals to provide physical and mental therapy for patients undergoing cancer treatment. In 2013 she co-organised an exhibition and benefit auction during Frieze Week in London to support the Mimi Foundation.
“If many of the artists in this project are Chinese that is because of our long and close relationship with them. This is just the tip of our iceberg—that we are continuing to follow and collect intensively with the new generation,” Myriam told Ocula at the time. “A collection is like a living breathing body. It evolves in an organic manner.”
Myriam was born in Cologne, Germany. Following early success in the food industry, she married Guy, a Belgian businessman and baron, and devoted herself to fashion (launching the brand Maison-Ullens) and philanthropy. The couple’s charitable activities also included opening the Ullens School, an educational facility in Nepal.
Nicolas Ullens, a former Belgian state security agent, is one of four children Guy had with his first wife, Micheline Franckx.
The Ullenses’ foundation did not immediately respond to a request for further information.
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