Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer during the Trump administration, is making headlines for his eccentric choice of background art during his testimony in the ongoing January 6 investigation.
Herschmann’s deposition over video call is considered one of the most revealing so far, yet it was overshadowed in the public’s mind by his out-there collection of wall art. What gives?
After much Twitter speculation, a few users put their heads together to figure out what’s going on in Herschmann’s background. Answer: he’s an avid art collector. And somewhat sentimental about his kids.
Let’s unpack this.
Who is Herschmann? He once told John Eastman to lawyer up
Eric Herschmann is a lawyer and ex-Trump advisor who represented the former president during his first impeachment in 2019 and 2020. After joining the White House in August 2020 as senior advisor to the president, he was at the heart of the Hunter Biden laptop controversy.
According to the New York Times, Herschmann provided a Wall Street Journal reporter with emails allegedly from Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Before his White House role, Herschmann worked as a partner at law firm Kassowitz-Benson-Torres from 1996 to 2020.
Herschmann’s testimony on 13 June was considered a key part of the January 6 investigation. When hearing of Trump’s alleged plan to use the DOJ to decertify the 2020 election, Herschmann says he brutally mocked the idea. He also claimed he told Trump loyalist John Eastman that going ahead with the plan would be “committing a felony” and he would need a criminal defense lawyer.
What is Eric Herschmann’s background art and how much is it worth?
As Herschmann gave his testimony, however, viewers tuning in at home were more focused on the spread of art in his video background.
Highlights included an orange panda emerging from a pool of water with a murderous thousand-yard stare, a collection of small silver wig sculptures and a baseball bat inscribed with the word JUSTICE.
Herschmann, who is an avid art collector and sat on two contemporary art boards before joining the Trump White House, does not seem to abide metaphor.
As viewers became low-key obsessed with the mini art collection flanking Herschmann, Twitter users called on Room Rater, the pandemic-appointed authority in hot-or-not Zoom decor. And Room Rater delivered:
From left to right: the three silver wig sculptures are an installation entitled Firing Squad by Israeli artist Tal Frank, part of a larger collection called Variations On 12 Themes. It’s a nod to his three older kids, the lawyer explained. We weren’t able to find the price of this piece, but other sculptures by Frank seem to go for a cool $6,000 at auctions.
Next up we’ve got the baseball bat called JUSTICE, a piece by Chilean artist Sebastian ErraZuriz. According to his website, the piece is a commentary on domestic violence. The public can download the stencils and create their own bats in solidarity with domestic violence victims. The piece was a gift from Herschmann’s friend after a successful trial, Politico notes.
Finally, the elephant (panda) in the room. The giant panda print in Eric Herschmann’s background art panoply is a piece by American artist Rob Pruitt, who has had a career-long fascination with pandas and their plight. In 2004, he told Art Forum: “The panda is a martyr for our sins of environmental destruction, like a religious icon.”
That would explain the thousand-yard stare.
Herschmann’s panda print was in 50 Shades Of Grey
Martyr or bizarre conversation starter, Herschmann’s panda art has been at the centre of some Twitter discussion. Soon after watching the hearing, users discovered a similar print appeared in the film 50 Shades Of Grey and couldn’t get enough of the coincidence:
Politico notes, however, that Herschmann added the art print to his collection long before the movie came out.
Artists react in surprise to featuring in Jan 6 testimony
Two of the artists whose art appeared in the background of Herschmann’s video shared their surprise at the cameo. Sebastian ErraZuriz posted on Instagram that he was proud his baseball bat sat “behind the White House lawyer who warned Trump’s lawyer not to go ahead with the plan to disrupt the election”.
Tal Frank, who created the silver wigs piece, wrote in an email to Intelligencer she thought this was “quite an amusing coincidence”.
Pruitt, the author of the panda art, did not respond with a comment, although his political views are easy to guess after he famously made and sold toilet paper with Trump’s face on it in 2018.