Artist’s $200m Facebook windfall

Time of article published Feb 4, 2012

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NEW YORK: Jackson Pollock may lose his record for creating the most expensive painting ever – and not to another enfant terrible of the art world, but to a minor Los Angeles mural painter who happened upon the Facebook offices in 2005.

David Choe could be the unlikeliest of all the millionaires and billionaires who will be minted by the social network’s flotation this year. If the company hits the top valuations being talked about, then Choe will have been paid about $200 million for the “graphic sexual murals” that adorned Facebook’s walls in its early years.

Choe, who says his “dirty-style figure paintings combine themes of desire, degradation, and exaltation”, took shares in Facebook instead of a cash payment. Although he told friends at the time that Facebook was a “ridiculous and pointless” idea that wouldn’t succeed, he made the gamble, and now the shares look like being the hottest property on the US stock market.

With Facebook being pitched in the $75bn-$100bn range, those murals could turn out to be more expensive than the $140m paid in 2006 for Pollock’s No 5, 1948 – or even the $200.7m paid at auction for a collection of Damien Hirst pieces in 2008.

Although Choe declined to speak about his new-found wealth, his Facebook fanpage tells his story: “In 2005, internet entrepreneur Sean Parker, a longtime fan, asked him to paint graphic sexual murals in the interior of Facebook’s first Silicon Valley office, and in 2007, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg commissioned him to paint somewhat tamer murals for their next office.”

About 250 of Facebook’s earliest employees, many still at the company, will be worth millions of dollars on paper after the flotation, thanks to share options handed out after it was created by Zuckerberg. – The Independent

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