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Trump Drawing of Skyline Goes Up for Auction, Experts Offer Mixed Reviews

by Daniel Arkin /
A 2005 drawing of New York City's skyline by Donald Trump is up for auction in New York.Nate D. Sanders Auctions

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A handful of American presidents have shown a real knack for fine art. Dwight D. Eisenhower painted bucolic landscapes and humble homes. Jimmy Carter illustrated the signing of the Camp David Accords. In recent years, George W. Bush has drawn attention — and some acclaim — for his portraits of veterans.

President Donald Trump, for his part, once did a drawing of the New York City skyline.

The 11.5-by-9-inch piece, originally sketched by the president for a 2005 charity event, is now up for auction. Los Angeles-based Nate D. Sanders Auctions set the starting bid at $9,000.

 A 2005 drawing of New York City's skyline by Donald Trump is up for auction in New York. Nate D. Sanders Auctions

The drawing, completed a year after the premiere of Trump's reality show "The Apprentice," appears to show Trump Tower flanked by skyscrapers, hugged by what could be a flowing river or a wavy thoroughfare. The signed sketch has a "light smudge and abrasion to [its] right side," the auction house says in its lot description, but it is generally in "near fine condition."

But what do art experts make of Trump's work?

"This line drawing is lacking in telling specificity, and as a result, is cursory to a fault," Stephen Alcorn, an arts professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in an email.

"Everything has been reduced to a series of unduly reductive marks that say nothing about the inherently rich and varied subject President Trump has elected to draw — to the point of making the NYC skyline virtually unrecognizable."

Final verdict? Alcorn called the sketch a "banal scribble."

Peter Schjeldahl, the longtime art critic at The New Yorker, said in a phone conversation that the sketch seemed to defy easy categorization — but he would not dismiss it out of turn.

"It's neither good nor bad. It's curious. I don't get any pleasure from it. But it is intriguing," Schjeldahl said.

Schjeldahl said he was struck by the building in the center of the frame, a likely stand-in for Trump Tower.

"There's this one right in the middle, with a top or roof that almost looks like hair — which I guess makes it a self-portrait," he said.

"That building is the only interesting presence. It's the only one given any detail."

As for the squiggly lines under the buildings, Schjeldahl had a working theory.

"I guess that's a river?" he asked rhetorically.

"The river or road could be an equal sign — as if the skyline equals Donald Trump."

The auction is due to close at 8 p.m. ET. As of the initial publication of this article, the highest bid was $11,979.

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