Why David Choe is the Smartest Grafitti Artist of All-Time

If you hadn’t already guessed, David Choe is a graffiti artist and he’s very good at what he does. He’s also one of the smartest men alive since he figured out how to make his art pay for itself many times over. Graffiti used to be a dirty word and still kind of is considered that way depending on who you talk to. Some of it is just tagging, meaning that someone is marking their territory, and is little more than a few squiggles of paint and a symbol that is indecipherable to anyone except those that know what it means. Graffiti art however is typically something that can be figured out by just about anyone, and is in fact quite beautiful but often very busy in how it’s designed. If you’re not up on any of the art lingo, ‘busy’ means that there are a lot of components in the overall piece that tend to clash or somehow blend in with one another to create the completed mural or painting. The methods by which the artists that do these works of art operate are hard to imagine but obviously produce great results.

The reason Davide Choe is considered to be so smart however is that in 2005 he was hired to paint sexually explicit murals in the original Facebook office in Silicon Valley. In 2007 Mark Zuckerberg commissioned him to do the same kind of artwork but slightly toned down for their new office. Choe agreed to both but with Zuckerberg decided that he wanted to be paid in Facebook shares rather than cash. When Zuckerberg agreed a lot of folks might have thought that Choe had just taken the highest gamble of his life and was about to lose it all. In fact even Choe thought that Facebook wouldn’t amount to anything, but he’s a habitual gambler and wanted to take the chance. Obviously this one gamble paid off to great extent. By 2012 when Facebook was really on its way to what it is now his shares were worth $200 million.

So really it’s not so much foresight as it is taking a risk that a lot of people would have never thought about. The kind of money that Zuckerberg could have paid back then might not have been as much as now but it still would have been substantial for someone that works as a graffiti artist. The best among them can make upwards of $40 to $50 thousand a year, but that’s not a guaranteed thing. Since graffiti art is still on the rise and isn’t technically considered a high art form, if it ever will be, it’s not a guaranteed job and should be treated as a hobby to begin with. David Choe is an exception, not the rule, since like writing, which is my go-to analogy for things such as this, one can be the best in their field at what they do but until enough people recognize this there isn’t much chance of being noticed.

David Choe took a chance and it paid off. If you want to succeed in this world at what he does however the hard work and sacrifice are often the only real path towards getting that far. In other words, if you really want a life like this, prepare to be poor for a while.

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