Exhibit 3B is part of Michael Cohen’s testimony (via US government)

As the world watches Michael Cohen’s testify in front of Congress today, one aspect of his testimony is sure to intrigue members of the art community. Cohen revealed:

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. Please see Exhibit 3B to my testimony. [Exhibit 3B is posted above.]

I don’t think anyone would be surprised that a man who loves to brag about absolutely everything, and is as thin-skinned as anyone, could have staged a fake bid on his portrait.

Micheal Cohen during his testimony today (screenshot by the author)

Again, from Cohen’s testimony: “A copy of an article with Mr. Trump’s handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself — he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs … ” He is referring to Exhibit 3A in his testimony, which is posted below.

Exhibit 3A is part of Michael Cohen’s testimony (via US government)

The vanity of Trump knows no limits, and this certainly isn’t the only portrait of Donald Trump that has been presented at auction. In 2007, a portrait was made for a benefit at Mar-a-Lago, and lest we forget the fake Time magazine cover of him that hangs at the same Florida club.

This is actually a THIRD portrait of himself that @realdonaldtrump allegedly bought with his charity’s $. I knew about a 3-ft one and a 6-ft one. This is a 9-ft one, that he bought in 2013.
I knew about the painting. I didn’t know charity $ was involved.https://t.co/x6q25r2gHd https://t.co/50SA9ujWuF

— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) February 27, 2019

It was previously reported that Trump’s charitable organization, the Trump Foundation, paid $10,000 for an oil portrait of Trump at a 2014 auction after no other bids were made on it. It was also reported in 2016 that Trump used $20,000 of his charity foundation’s funds to buy a painting in 2007.

The bigger issue is not only the straw bidder, which happens at auction more than some commercial art world people would like to admit, but that the $60,000 that paid for the portrait came from the now-defunct Trump Foundation, which was closed after being accused of “shocking pattern of illegality.” This issue underlines various arguments that have been going on in the art community for a long time, namely that all art auctions should be more transparent about their sales, and, like real estate, they should reveal the names of sellers and bidders to avoid scams such as this.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.