{highest paid graffiti artist...}

david choe. get to know his name, if you don't already. in 2005, choe was asked by then-president, sean parker, to paint murals at the (first) palo alto office of facebook. he was given the option to accept cash or stock options in the company as payment for his art.* he chose the latter. as you know, facebook went public earlier this month and choe stands to make somewhere around $200 million.

"the payout to mr. choe, the graffiti artist, could provide more money from his paintings than sotheby’s attracted for its record-breaking $200.7 million auction in 2008 for work by damien hirst." according to this new york times article.

i tell you, there are so many angles to this man as to make him interesting. for instance, his first million wasn't made through art or facebook. it was made through gambling in las vegas. as choe advises, "always double down on 11. always." choe dropped out of art school, but is asked to teach courses time and time again. in addition, choe has been homeless and was incarcerated in japan at one point in his life.

choe didn't hit the media mainstream until news of facebook's ipo and subsequently choe's windfall made headlines. then all the huge media outlets came calling for an interview. choe turned down every last one and, instead, selected the howard stern show as his first interview. (interesting choice.)

he has since done an interview with barbara walters, which showed yet another angle to choe. in one part of the interview, choe states, "do you have to suffer to be a great artist? yes. you have to suffer for your art. you can be a good artist and not suffer. but to be great, you have to suffer." as is the case with so many great artists.

so, what's the moral of the story here? there is an upside to pain and suffering for your art? or, when offered, always accept stock options over cash? or, my personal favorite, "always double down on 11"? all good problems to have, i suppose.


*according to this daily uk mail article (which is very interesting if you have the time to read, including photos of choe's graffiti art at facebook) via the huffington post

image source: a selection of choe's artwork from his website

15 Send Me Your Thoughts:

  1. Ah, and this is why I will never be great! Not a fan of suffering! I think some people draw it to them, or perhaps don't run when they see it coming. I'm always too concerned that everyone around me is HAPPY! His stuff is stunning, but you can see that dark side for sure. Why do I think he won't be happy still, even with all that lovely money?

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  2. What a story! Love stories like this - a coming together of events, fired by personal character traits and experiences, leads one to be at a certain place, in a certain situation, at a certain time, in a certain state of mind - an opportunity is seized, a decision is made ... and the outcome is magical. Fun!!

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  3. I don't even know what double down on 11 even means. What game is that?

    Wow, I think if I ever get offered stock in something (v unlikely to happen) that I will say yes.

    I love the picture of the girl. Do you know Banksy? He's our guerrilla graffiti artist. You can see his stuff all around London and you know when it's authentic because it's now covered by perspex sheets!

    Good morning T by the way! x

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  4. Further proof that it's all about luck, not necessarily talent. I don't find his work to be all that impressive or nice to look at, but he stands to make a record sum of money off sheer luck. Meanwhile, there are struggling artists around the world with far more noble contributions to the art world (sorry, graffiti is not art to me, not even when it comes to Bansky) who will never see $200 for their work let alone $200M. I don't really know how he can equate lucking into that much money, both at a casino and with facebook, with suffering, but then again I don't know his backstory.

    I'm not bitter about the fact that you posted this though! I love topics that get people talking. Thank you for sharing! Don't think I'm all sour over it :)

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  5. I came across Choe's story quite recently - incredible isn't it? It just goes to show that you never know what's round the corner.

    Like Lauren, I'm not a fan of suffering but I'm such a perfectionist that I inevitably do end up suffering for my "art".

    I'm with Annie - I would definitely choose stock options over cash.

    The fashion industry is full of talented people who suffer daily for their art but never get the success/accolades less talented people do.

    Is there an upside to said pain and suffering? Not necessarily - just love what you do and the rest will, hopefully, follow.

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  6. I'm going to disagree with the ever lovely Erin re Banksy.

    He is a trained artist and also his murals have political and social messages that give them meaning, they're not inane vandalism, there is a point to them. But of course it is still vandalism and is illegal and it is defacing property. But in London they're fun and cute and it really does brighten your day when you happen to come across one. They stand out far ahead of normal graffiti and are instantly recognisable, even without the perspex. I like the ones he did in Jerusalem the best.

    And T, pleaseeeee don't read the Daily Mail. It's vilest, most bigotted paper you could imagine. Just look down the right hand side for the constant mysoginistyic commentary on famous women's weight and bikini figures. Boycott it! I'm sure you found it by accident but I just want to have a rant about that ghastly publication. Sorry!

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  7. I love your Thursday art picks! They are always very educational and you introduce me to new artists.

    I think half of what choe said is true about having to suffer to be a great artist. There is something about going through something very painful that allows you to come out on the other side with a little more ambition, fight, determination, and a little less fear.

    The other half of me feels like happy artists or artists that haven't quite been through a traumatic experience, produce brighter & happier images and everyone loves a dose of happy therefore, I think it's a win-win for both types of artists. They can both get paid.

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  8. He was certainly at the right place at the right time.
    Opportunity meets preparation!
    Not sure about the suffering. I think it's overrated. Teri

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  9. @LAUREN - Yes, his pain and suffering might be internal. As we know all too well, no amount of money can solve that kind of struggle. (Whitney Houston.)

    @HOLLY - Yes, the summation I was trying so hard to write yesterday. This man had so many angles to him, I was having a hard time tying it all together at the end. Instead, I just went with tongue-and-cheek. Hope that was evident in my last paragraph.

    @ANNIE - Oh, that's blackjack talk. If someone plays, they already know this rule. If they don't, good to disregard.
    I have never heard of Bansky. I'll see what Google pulls up.
    And, good evening to you!

    @ERIN - I always welcome a different side/opinion. I knew Choe might be controversial when I was writing the post yesterday.
    I should have mentioned within the post that the artwork I show are his paintings, rather than his graffiti art (i.e., he's not solely a graffiti artist). I also don't love all of his work, some of it is offensive and a tad mysogynistic. That said, I thought the recent events in his life were interesting enough to post.
    What about the notion that there is no such thing as luck. There is a master plan intended for each of us.

    @CHI - You make a good point. There really is no true upside to suffering for your art. One may be able to ultimately create the type of art they want and even receive rewards (be it monetary and/or accolades), but at the end of day, one is still left with the pain. Yes, do what you love and the rest will follow.

    @ANNIE - Glad you brought that up. When I was reading the article in the Daily Mail, I did notice all the gossip on the right hand side. I thought it was strange and just ignored it...I just read the article and got out. You're right, I don't normally read the pub.

    @TORI - I totally agree with the idea of going through a personal struggle and coming out the other side with a stronger spirit. (Provided the person does come out. That's the stickler, right?)
    Also agree that there can be two types of art - one created from a place of pain and one created from happiness. Each form will have different results and appeal to different audiences.

    @TERI - "Opportunity meets preparation"...Yes, this is what Malcolm Gladwell talks about in Outliers. I believe Oprah also believes something similar.

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  10. Gosh, I'm rather late to this debate but all very interesting....

    I haven't heard of Choe so thank you for introducing.

    I don't believe in pure luck. We create our luck and of course, at times it gets helped along a little. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Opportunities knock, grab them. I think that there are a lot of extremely talented people that don't get recognised. Agreed. They lack certain other skills to propel them to fame or wealth or stardom etc... I think working hard is great but am much more into working smart. It's not all about slogging guts out.

    Although I am very against gambling, I think Chloe has the X-Factor in terms of 'making it happen'

    In terms of suffering for your art. Difficult one as it's so personal to each one. Look at Adele, 20M records later, 10 room mansion and a new B/F did she suffer badly from the break-up in '21' Who knows, only she does!

    Personally speaking, sometimes I can get really low for a short period of time. I have worked out that going with the wave and allowing it to happen without fighting it ALWAYS makes me go to another level and break through some creative dilemmas I'm experiences. It really works without fail but I hate having to go through the shit times.

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  11. Hmm, can't decide except that I need to know more about his art. It looks awesome! Thanks for sharing.

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  12. I don't think I can subscribe to the idea that " There is a master plan intended for each of us" when there are atrocities in the world like the holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, or any of the other countless genocides that have occurred. I don't think there is a master plan or someone responsible for a master plan that thought, "You know, I think these 6 million people should just be wiped out." I know that sounds heavy, especially for a Friday morning, sorry! But I'm not a big fan of fate or master plans or a higher power or anything.

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  13. @TINA - I experience the same types of waves. In my earlier years, the waves were unbearable. As I've grown older, I have learned how to manage them better (like you).

    @NOREEN - :)

    @ERIN - That's a great point, one I totally respect. There's nothing divine about that...It's pure evil.

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  14. my dad was telling me about this! too funny... smart dude!!

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  15. i love some of his work. in these examples i especially like the painting of the woman.
    i think suffering can make someone stronger and if they are an artist, make their artwork more poignant. it can also bring a darkness that is uncomfortable...
    i like it when someone reveals a bit of their soul in their work. it feels real, and i love real!
    xxx

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