What now, for Ivanka Trump? Since publishing her unpleasant-to-pronounce self-help book, Women Who Work, in 2017 and closing her poorly performing personal fashion line in 2018, the favorite first daughter has appeared to work solely as an adviser to her father, while her husband and siblings have also crowded around the throne. The role of U.S. president is extremely powerful but temporary—Ivanka placed a high wager when she first leaned into her father’s campaign and later took on a job in the administration, and she’ll soon be out of a job she likely hoped would last longer.
Before joining the White House, Ivanka held a development and acquisitions role at the Trump Organization and did other things that the children of the wealthy do: attended galas, received serviceable though not always ideal seating at fashion shows, bought art, and bathed in the warm glow of softball profiles in women’s magazines. (“Full-speed at work and hands-on at home, Ivanka Trump knows what it means to be a modern millennial,” one cooed in 2015.) During her time in the west wing of the White House, she has thrown in her glossy, blonde lot with child separations, flagrant racism, and the host of other outrages now synonymous with her own name. She tried to craft an image as the softer Trump, focused as she was on entrepreneurship and STEM, but the project of maintaining some semblance of liberal cachet failed. Her position is so dire that it is yet premature to think she’ll even attempt to stage a comeback. But we’ve been wrong to doubt the Trumps before.
In this tense lame-duck interim—after the pin has entered the balloon, as it were, but before the explosion itself—one can’t help but speculate on the calculations going on behind the scenes. There may yet be such a thing as Ivanka 3.0 (successor to Ivanka the First, the generic, sleek heiress, and Ivanka the Second, the babyfaced puppet of a would-be tyrant), but how will she try to pull it off?
ArtNet’s gossip column Wet Paint reported this week that Ivanka is “back” on the art scene. Apparently, she is “planning a return to New York to resume her art-collecting lifestyle,” and has kept this option open by maintaining friendships with wealthy art socialites like Tico Mugrabi, who attended Ivanka’s wedding anniversary at Camp David. While working at the White House, Ivanka took meetings with Marc Glimcher, president of New York’s Pace gallery, according to ArtNet, and she has kept up good relationships with art movers and shakers like Christina and Emmanuel Di Donna.
The line between money and art gets blurry up there in the one percent. In 2017, ArtNet reported that Ivanka and Jared Kushner’s art collection was worth somewhere between $5 and $25 million—figures both astronomical and vague enough to show you how little the art world wants you to know about its business side. By living in Manhattan and collecting artists like Joe Bradley and Wade Guyton and showing them off on Instagram, she established a little niche for the Trump-Kushners close enough to the New York art scene to bask a little in its reflected cool.
Sources told ArtNet that “many of the more prominent dealers would not think twice about selling Jared and Ivanka works, even if they wouldn’t want to be buddy-buddy with the couple in public,” which sounds about right. I asked Kaitlin Phillips, who described herself as a “headset-level publicist” at a P.R. firm, what she would do if Ivanka walked into a party she was running. She replied that a polite ejection would be in order. Adam Abdalla, CEO of Cultural Counsel, the firm where Phillips works, said, “Personally, I’d love to see these people become persona non grata. But recent history has taught me that’ll only happen if they go broke.”
Elizabeth Howard, a strategic communications consultant, explained to me what she perceived as the impossibility of Ivanka reentering high society. She’d have better luck staying in D.C., she said, where any degree of power can buy you some social cachet. (Though they may struggle, even there.) “I think she’s been seduced by Washington and power, a very different kind of power,” Howard observed, and in D.C., you’re “not as marginalized [by unpopularity] because you’re not being left off for the Met Gala or the Whitney Biennial Party or any of the cultural things that are so important to being a player in New York.”
And so her brand teeters between oblivion and the possibility of survival. One struggles to picture Ivanka Trump in a Manhattan gallery now. Some things are changing in the upper crust, even if just a little and mainly for the worst offenders. (Among whom Trump may now plausibly count herself.) The Sackler family, for example, are now so tainted by their culpability for the opioid crisis that they cannot launch new brands unscathed, even though there are galleries with their name on them all over the world. It’s a mixed existence: One couldn’t call it social death, but it is an adjustment in prestige.
There’s a chance she’ll return to her women’s media roots, anyway, and consolidate the groundwork she laid in that now-defunct faux-empowerment campaign, Women Who Work. Can’t you see it now: another book, another lifestyle site, only this time centered around the God and Country image she’s reconfigured herself into over these last four years? Ivanka could be the hard right’s Gwyneth, a working mom who employs multiple nannies, crushes boardroom deals, and generally embodies a Republican version of the Lean In message, which is itself a fairly Republican message. Ivanka has abandoned liberal values and embraced her father’s ideology and the general posture of the Republican Party—she recently came out as personally anti-abortion and has delivered softer versions of her father’s false claims around election fraud, to name some recent hits—and it’s clear there’s an audience for this kind of polite violence. The future might be The Wing–style “corporate feminism,” only refracted through the perverse logic of Republicanism. Who better to lead it than the princess of the reactionary right herself? We are done with Ivanka, but she may not be done with us.