Let’s be honest, if you’re an aspiring artist, there are days where you’re not even able to afford groceries.
Which means a lot of artists will do many things just to earn a quick few hundred dollars.
Rewind to 2005, when Facebook was but an (brilliant) idea. Facebook hired broke graffiti artist David Choe to paint their office for $60K. Though the amount is more than most artists make in a year, Choe opted for stocks instead of cash for the job.
Apparently, Facebook co-founding president Sean Parker was so influential that he made a believer of the social media-hating artist, who had just been released from prison.
It turns out that good foresight is just as important as a good artistic eye – the stock is now worth $200m.
But, I mean, it’s kind of tough not to believe in a business venture that’s backed by Sean Parker. By his thirtieth birthday, he had founded Napster (remember that?), co-founded Facebook, and discovered and funded Shopify. The thing was, though, in 2005, he had also just been sued for a trillion dollars.
Yet Choe – who had been spray painting city streets since he was a teenager – quickly became a fan of Parker. Convinced by Parker’s track record and his vision for the social media platform, the self-proclaimed gambling man opted for the stock option.
As for his murals, they’re now found at Facebook offices around the world. They’ve been carved out of the walls of the original office and shipped off to grace the workplaces of Facebook employees globally.
For Choe, the Facebook walls were only the beginning of his success. During the 2008 presidential race, he painted a portrait of Obama that was used in a grassroots street art campaign, the original of which was later displayed in the White House. His work is also found in valuable private collections and museums.
That’s not bad for someone who dropped out of high school and spent two years stealing and hitchhiking his way across the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
After being jailed in Tokyo upon punching a security guard, Choe spent his time behind bars creating art with anything that was available to him. He created over 600 drawings – including portraits of cellmates – via small pieces of paper and a single pen. During this time, he also created a series of erotic paintings made with soy sauce, tea, blood, and urine for colour.
You think they’d at least offer the inmates paint, but maybe that’s just me.
Either way, to find out more about Choe, check out the documentary Dirty Hands: The Art and Crimes of David Choe. The film was made by Choe’s best friend, Harry Kim, who began documenting Choe’s far-from-typical work and professional life over a 10-year time period.
Though Choe sold some of his stocks awhile back (just in case), he was left with a couple hundred million dollars after the exchange. A far cry from relying on blood and urine, that amount could buy a lot of paint.