Art Market

Michael Cohen claims Donald Trump used $60,000 of his foundation’s money to buy a portrait of himself.

Wallace Ludel
Feb 27, 2019 8:59PM, via Vox

Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Donald Trump, testifies during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election on February 27, 2019. Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, testified on Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee, and his opening statement contained a multitude of credible allegations against Trump. Perhaps the most surprising assertion was that Trump instructed Cohen to arrange for a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of Trump and repaid the bidder with $60,000 taken from the Trump Foundation, the since-dissolved charitable branch of the Trump empire.

Cohen stated:

Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder despite keeping the art for himself.

While the use of a straw bidder is more common than one may suspect, claiming that the purchase of a $60,000 portrait of oneself is somehow charity remains rather anomalous. The portrait in question, by artist William Quigley, was bought by Trump’s straw bidder during the 2013 edition of the Art Hamptons fair and is now on display at a Trump country club, according to The Art Newspaper. It is one of at least three portraits Trump is said to have bought using his foundation’s funds.

Wallace Ludel
Get the Artsy app
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019