Trump’s art collection raises ethical dilemma

Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner are no strangers to media attention. Now the daughter and son-in-law of US President Donald Trump have made headlines after omitting details of their valuable art holdings from required financial disclosures.

As Assistant and Senior Adviser to the President, Kushner is obliged to disclose his assets and business interests. One might have expected the list to include the enormous collection of contemporary art, which Kushner and Trump have acquired since their marriage in 2009. With pieces from Dan Colen, Alex Da Corte and David Ostrowski, the couple’s collection is thought to be worth millions. However, it was noticeably absent from Kushner’s disclosure report revised this year.

According to the US Office of Government Ethics, employees must disclose any artworks held by them, which serve an investment purpose and carry a price tag exceeding US$1000 (£779). Works serving a decorative or artistic purpose are normally exempt from disclosure requirements because they are not considered an investment. Regular buying and selling of artworks is regarded as the best indicator of whether or not a collection is held for investment purposes.

In light of these guidelines, a lawyer for Kushner explained to artnet News that the couple were not obliged to disclose their artworks because they serve a decorative purpose and only one had been sold from the collection. Conversely, ethics expert, Craig Holman, has suggested the way in which Ivanka Trump uses artworks in the collection on her Instagram account hints at more commercial objectives.

Works by Nate Lowman, Christopher Wool and other artists represented in Trump’s collection have served as a backdrop in her  Instagram photographs on several occasions. In one image, an Ivanka Trump brand handbag is placed in front of a painting by Wool, which hangs in Trump’s US$4 million (£3 million) New York apartment. “The art is being used to promote the business interests… It should be fully disclosed”, Holman has argued.

For the avoidance of doubt, Trump and Kushner have decided to report their collection in an updated version of Kushner’s financial disclosure form, which is forthcoming.

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