Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have quite the formidable art collection, featuring works by big contemporary names like Christopher Wool, Dan Colen, Alex Israel and Alex Da Corte. Yet, according to artnet News, Kushner, who is currently serving as President Donald Trump’s senior advisor, did not report the multimillion-dollar cache in his required financial disclosures.
A lawyer advising Kushner attributed his pricey omission to the fact that the wife-and-husband duo collect art for pleasure, not business. “Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump display their art for decorative purposes and have made only a single sale,” the lawyer said in a statement issued by the White House. Still, other members of Trump’s cabinet including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, did disclose their sizable art collections.
This is not the first time Kushner has been outed for failing to be transparent about his financial assets. But now that the blunder has been noticed ― and widely publicized ― he plans to report the collection to “avoid any doubt.” The White House gave no indication as to when this new disclosure would be released.
The official rules regarding financial disclosure for federal employees are somewhat nebulous in that they differentiate art that is simply for decoration from art that serves as a business investment. According to the Office of Government Ethics, if the art is intended for investment purposes and is worth more than $1,000, it should be disclosed.
Ivanka Trump and Kushner’s haul is certainly worth far more than $1,000; works by Da Corte and Colen are worth around half a million each. But how do you tell if an artwork is indeed “an investment”? One indication, as ethics lawyer Robert Walker told artnet, is whether or not a collector frequently buys and sells their work.
Kushner has sold only a single artwork, which doesn’t quite qualify as “regular activity.” As Walker put it: “A single sale does not necessarily mean that Kushner will need to disclose his art assets.”
Complicating this conclusion, however, is the fact that Trump herself described art as an investment in a 2015 article called “How to Start Collecting Art,” published on her website. “Think of art as an investment,” she advised readers, leaving little room to read between the lines.
Trump, who is technically covered by Kushner’s disclosures as his wife, also frequently posts photos of her pricey pieces on Instagram, where they help cultivate her carefully curated image of #refined #sophistication.
Occasionally, artists who’ve spotted their work online have spoken out, less than keen on being associated with the Trump legacy in any way. Da Corte, for example, kindly requested: “Dear @Ivankatrump please get my work off of your walls. I am embarrassed to be seen with you.”
Furthermore, the First Daughter’s art-centric posts are not just humble brags, they’re good business, making Kushner’s financial omission seem all the more dubious. Trump will often juxtapose images of contemporary art with pieces from her clothing brand, arguably using the artwork’s repute to influence her own products’ character for personal gain. You know what makes a fancy purse look even fancier? A half-million dollar painting, that’s what.
Because of the prospect that their work will somehow benefit Ivanka Trump’s brand, and thereby Donald Trump’s agenda, artists have been desperately trying to detach themselves from any and all Trump ties. An artist-led campaign called “Dear Ivanka” has continuously led protests online and in person.
As art dealer Bill Powers put it: “I think there are a lot of artists that are uncomfortable now being incorporated, or leveraged, as part of the Ivanka Trump brand.”