In 2023, American artist, singer, actor, and former journalist and podcast host David Choe has a $300 million net worth. His graffiti-inspired paintings, murals, and media initiatives are well-known. Being an early Facebook investment made him a multimillionaire overnight. What led to his achievement and what are his current and future plans? History of his life and work.
Early Life and Career
David Choe was born on April 21, 1976, in Los Angeles, California. His parents were Korean immigrants and born-again Christians. He grew up in Koreatown, Los Angeles, where he developed an interest in drawing and painting. He started spray-painting on the streets when he was a teenager, inspired by local graffiti artists like Hex and Mear One. He dropped out of high school after his parents’ real estate business was burned down during the 1992 L.A. riots, and then hitchhiked across America, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East for two years. He returned to California and enrolled at the California College of the Arts, but dropped out after two years.
Choe began his professional career as an illustrator and writer for various magazines, including Hustler, Ray Gun, and Vice. He also published his own graphic novels, such as Slow Jams (1999), which won him a Xeric Grant. He had his first solo exhibition at the Santa Rosa Museum of Contemporary Art in 2005.
Rise to Fame: The Facebook Connection
Choe’s breakthrough came in 2005, when he was hired by Sean Parker, the president of Facebook, to paint murals for the company’s first Silicon Valley office. Choe was offered $60,000 in cash or company stock for his work. He chose the latter option, even though he thought the Facebook business model was “ridiculous and pointless”. His decision proved to be very wise, as his shares were valued at approximately $200 million on the eve of Facebook’s 2012 IPO. Choe became one of the richest artists in the world overnight.
Artistic Style and Achievements
A rough, frantic, and colorful approach, Choe labels his paintings “dirty style”. He paints figurative scenes about desire, degradation, and exaltation. His influences include comics, cartoons, pop culture, Asian culture, religion, sex, violence, and his own life. Oil, acrylic, watercolor, spray paint, collage, mixed media, and digital art are his mediums.
Choe has exhibited his work in many galleries and museums around the world, such as Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York, Lazarides Gallery in London and Newcastle, Galerie Du Jour Agnès B. in Paris, Museo Universitario Del Chopo in Mexico City, and Palazzo Reale in Milan. He has also collaborated with other artists and celebrities, such as Jay-Z and Linkin Park (for whom he designed album covers), Barack Obama (for whom he painted a portrait that hung in the White House), Anthony Bourdain (with whom he traveled to Korea for his show Parts Unknown), and Mark Ryden (with whom he created a mural for the Wynwood Walls in Miami).
Controversies and Personal Struggles
Choe’s life and career have not been without controversies and personal struggles. In 2014, he faced backlash after he told a graphic story of sexually assaulting a massage therapist on his podcast DVDASA. He later claimed that it was a fictional story meant for shock value and entertainment. He also admitted that he had issues with gambling addiction, sex addiction, rage disorder, depression, suicidal thoughts, self-hatred, narcissism, and lying.
Choe sought professional help and underwent extensive therapy and treatment. He reemerged in 2017 with a new body of work and an exhibition in Los Angeles that presented heavy themes of trauma, self-reflection, and hope for recovery.
David Choe’s Net Worth and Financial Success
As of 2023, David Choe has a net worth of $300 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Most of his wealth comes from his Facebook stock, which he still owns a significant amount of. He also earns money from his art sales, which can fetch up to six figures per piece. He has sold his paintings to private collectors, such as Sofia Vergara, who bought one of his works for $400, 000.
Choe lives a lavish lifestyle, owning several properties, cars, and motorcycles. He also spends money on traveling, gambling, charity, and supporting other artists. He once gave away $100, 000 to a homeless man.
Philanthropy and Social Impact
Choe is not only a wealthy artist, but also a generous philanthropist and a social activist. He has donated many of his works to charity and has collaborated with foundations to support their local causes, such as fundraising for Haiti with Yle Haiti, a foundation founded by Wyclef Jean; painting with the children of The LIDÈ Haiti Foundation; and painting with children of South Central LA at APCH.
Choe has also used his platform and influence to raise awareness and advocate for various social issues, such as human rights, environmental protection, animal welfare, and mental health. He has participated in campaigns and projects such as The Human Rights Foundation’s Oslo Freedom Forum, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s St. Tropez Gala, The David Lynch Foundation’s Festival of Disruption, and The Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots Program.
David Choe in 2023: Current Projects and Future Plans
In 2023, Choe starred as Isaac Cho in the Netflix drama-comedy miniseries Beef, alongside Ali Wong and Steven Yeun. The show follows the lives of two people who decide to settle their grievances through a road trip. Choe received positive reviews for his performance as a shady and criminally inclined cousin of Yeun’s character.
Choe also launched his own talk show on FX and Hulu, called The Choe Show. The show is part interview, part performance art, and part therapy session. Choe interrogates the famous (Will Arnett, Rainn Wilson) and the semifamous (Kat Von D, Asa Akira) in unorthodox fashion, and each episode ends with a portrait of the interviewee painted by Choe.
Choe continues to create new artwork and explore new mediums and genres. He recently released his first NFT (non-fungible token) collection, featuring his signature character Munko. He also posts new content, art tutorials, guided meditations, and more on his official YouTube channel.
David Choe is a successful and influential artist of his generation. He became famous for his graffiti-inspired paintings, murals, and media initiatives. He has received criticism and praise for his controversial and intimate stories. He has utilized painting to heal and express himself after various hardships. Charitable work and social activity have also benefited society. His Netflix program Beef, FX discussion show The Choe program, NFT collection, and YouTube channel are his current undertakings. Creative powerhouse and cultural icon, he should be watched.