Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump’s former lawyer has claimed that Donald Trump ordered him to find someone to fake bid on and purchase a portrait of himself at a high society art auction. Once Cohen had bought the painting, he was then paid $60,000 with money allegedly from the Trump Foundation.
Cohen told the House oversight committee that Trump ordered him to find a bidder to purchase the portrait by William Quigley, with the clear goal to “ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon”.
“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.” Cohen told Congress.
The painting was being auctioned of at the ArtHamptons gala, one of the three main art events that takes place in the Hamptons every summer. Trump had tweeted about the sale saying he had “just found out about it”.
This is not the first time the story about this auctioning surfaces. Dan’s Papers, a local Hamptons Newspaper, interviewed Quigley about the sale in 2015 and he also revealed that Trump had paid for the painting in person.
“He was nothing but a gentlemen,” Quigley said. However, Cohen’s testimony adds speculation that Trump used Trump Foundation money to finance it.
Interestingly enough, this is also not the first time that Trump uses his foundation’s funds to bid or purchase a portrait of himself at auction. Only last year, the New York’s attorney’s general office, which was investigating corruption at the Trump foundation, revealed that Trump had bid $10,000 for a portrait of himself at a charity auction in Mar-a-Lago.
That portrait was by Havi Schanz, an Israeli artist, and Cohen claimed that Trump was hoping to get the bidding started at a high price but as no one else bid, he ended up paying for it.
This is certainly not uncommon in the industry as art dealers and gallerists often bid up works by artists they represent at auction. Sometimes they do this to drive up the price of specific works, which impacts the value of all other works by that artist; other times, gallerists bid on their own artists’ works to ensure that they don’t go unsold, negatively impacting their artist’s value.