David Choe went from painting graffiti on bridges to striking gold as an artist. The street artist famously painted the walls of Facebook’s first headquarters over a decade ago. In return for his talents, Choe was paid unconventionally but handsomely. Now David Choe has an estimated net worth of $300.0 million in 2021 thanks to the growing value of his stock in Facebook. His holdings in Facebook ensure that Choe remains one of the wealthiest artists in the world.
David Choe’s Early Life and Career
David Choe was born on April 21, 1976, in Los Angeles, California. He is a first-generation American born to Korean immigrants.
A street artist since he was a teen, he briefly attended the California College of the Arts. He briefly lived with family in South Korea, got in trouble with the law as a juvenile, and had to go through unresolved issues with his family.
Choe had been on a professional art path since he self-published a graphic novel, Slow Jams, and distributed 200 copies at Comic Con in 1996. He went on to win $5,000 from the Xeric Grant, leading him to publish an expanded edition of Slow Jams in 1999 with a cover price of $4.00.
Choe has come a long way since then. He has made an autobiographical documentary, Dirty Hands: The Art and Crimes of David Choe (2008); an online series with Vice, Thumbs Up!, a podcast, and artwork that sells at anywhere between $1,700 and $50,000 at auctions.
Choe has had his fair share of controversies as well, which made him withdraw from the spotlight for a while.
In 2021, he returned to television with the FX and Hulu series The Choe Show. He invites celebrity friends like Kat Von D, Maya Erskine, Will Arnett, and more to his home to paint a portrait of them, while also delving deep into their personalities through interviews.
The following table illustrates David Choe’s wealth compared to other artists.
|Artist||Net Worth (Estimated)|
|David Choe||$300.0 million|
|Thierry Guetta (Mr. Brainwash)||$20.0 million|
|Shepard Fairey||$10.0 million|
David Choe’s Facebook Stock
Choe has had some huge fans of his work, including former Facebook president Sean Parker, who had followed Choe’s work since the early ‘00s. So, when Parker became the president of Facebook, he commissioned Choe to jazz up Facebook’s first headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Back then, Choe had been cynical about social media and its early iterations, like MySpace. He nonetheless agreed to the job for an asking price of $60,000.
“My prices had been going higher and higher and I was like, ‘Yeah, I mean, if you want me to paint the entire building, it’s going to be 60, you know, 60 grand,’” the artist recalled telling Parker.
Parker, however, made an unconventional offer. He asked Choe to accept payment in stock of the then-fledgling start-up.
Choe didn’t have much faith in the growth of Facebook, but took the risk and accepted the stock. But the artist probably didn’t forsee that Facebook would turn into such a social media titan and his stock holdings would grow so rapidly.
At the time of Facebook’s IPO in 2012, its value was $38.00 a share. The value of Choe’s total stock in Facebook was estimated at $200.0 million, making him a multimillionaire overnight.
Today, his holdings could be valued between $300.0 million and $500.0 million. Despite his initial skepticism, Choe is among the richest artists in the world. He’s sold some of the stock in recent years, but it reportedly hasn’t put a dent in his fortune.
Choe’s Facebook murals are still in existence. He revealed that the walls were removed and parts of the murals were shipped to every Facebook office in the world, so the original artwork is everywhere.
David Choe’s Philanthropic Work
Since he became an instant millionaire, David Choe has been using his money in various ways. For instance, when he found $100,000 in a shoebox in his room by chance, he gave it away through a nationwide scavenger hunt. The winner also got a flight to L.A. to receive the prize money and a custom painting from Choe.
Since 2008, Choe has donated his art to organizations that raise money for various causes. Among the organizations he collaborates with, there is Wyclef Jean’s Yle Haiti, The LIDÈ Haiti Foundation, and A Place Called Home, a nonprofit youth organization in South Central L.A.
Choe most recently was a guest on Joe Rogan’s podcast, where he revealed he has been supporting the Meleka Foundation, an organization that gives aid to the ethnic Hadza tribe in Tanzania.