David Choe, a renowned American painter, graffiti artist, and graphic novelist, is estimated to be worth around $300 million. This wealth stems from his acclaimed artwork, entrepreneurial ventures, and smart investments. Notably, he received Facebook stock as payment for office murals, which skyrocketed in value after the company’s IPO. He continues to create art, explore new business opportunities, and host a popular podcast.
|April 21, 1976
|Los Angeles, California, United States
|Artist, Musician, Actor, Former Journalist, Podcast Host
|1990s – Present
|Jimmy Choe (Father), Jane Choe (Mother)
|One brother (name unknown)
|Born-again Christian (childhood), unknown (present)
Table of Contents
What is David Choe’s Net Worth?
David Choe’s net worth is estimated to be around $300 million. Choe’s artistic inclinations manifested early. Graffiti became his canvas, the streets his gallery, and his signature bucktoothed whale, a symbol of irreverence and individuality. His talent caught the eye of publications like “Hustler” and “Vice,” where his illustrations resonated with their countercultural audience. Soon, collaborations with renowned musicians like Sean Lennon and celebrities like Angelina Jolie catapulted him onto the art world’s radar.
The turning point, however, arrived in 2005, when a young Mark Zuckerberg commissioned Choe to paint murals at Facebook’s nascent headquarters. Offered either cash or stock options, Choe, skeptical of the fledgling company, opted for the latter. This seemingly impulsive decision, valued at a mere $60,000 at the time, blossomed into a life-changing gamble. By the time Facebook went public in 2012, Choe’s stock options had ballooned to a staggering $ 200 million, solidifying his financial future.
But Choe’s story doesn’t end with a lucky break. His entrepreneurial spirit fueled the establishment of “Mutilate Records,” a music label fostering underground talent, and “Library Street Clothing,” a clothing line reflecting his artistic flair. These ventures showcased his multifaceted personality and desire to extend his creative influence beyond canvases.
While the net worth figure undoubtedly commands attention, it’s crucial to remember it’s merely a snapshot of Choe’s success. His true legacy lies in his artistic contributions. His paintings, known for their raw energy and emotional depth, continue to captivate audiences and command high prices at auctions. His murals, adorning city walls worldwide, serve as vibrant testaments to his artistic prowess and commitment to public art.
In recent years, Choe has explored new avenues, co-hosting the popular podcast “DVDASA” alongside comedian Eddie Huang. This platform offers a glimpse into his life, philosophies, and unfiltered opinions, further connecting him with his fans and showcasing his multifaceted personality.
Despite his remarkable achievements, Choe remains grounded. He actively supports various charities and champions causes close to his heart. His journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring artists and entrepreneurs alike, demonstrating that success can be built on talent, courage, and a willingness to explore unconventional paths.
Early Life and Education
Choe’s childhood was immersed in the rich tapestry of Los Angeles’ Koreatown. Raised by Korean immigrant parents, he was exposed to diverse cultural influences that would later resonate in his art. A natural curiosity drew him towards drawing, capturing characters and scenes from his surroundings. This fascination soon took on a rebellious edge as he discovered the world of graffiti in his teenage years. Inspired by iconic street artists like Mear One and Hex, Choe’s hands began to dance across walls, leaving behind his own artistic imprint on the urban landscape.
Driven by a desire to hone his skills, Choe briefly enrolled at the California College of the Arts in 1997. However, the regimented structure of art school clashed with his independent spirit. After two years, he felt stifled and yearned for the freedom of self-expression that the streets offered. This decision, though unconventional, proved pivotal in shaping his artistic identity. Choe embraced the raw energy and unfiltered honesty of street art, rejecting the limitations of a formal education system that didn’t resonate with his creative vision.
The early 2000s presented obstacles for Choe. Periods of homelessness and struggles with petty theft marked a challenging chapter in his life. Yet, amidst these difficulties, his artistic drive remained undimmed. He channeled his experiences into illustrations for magazines like Hustler and Vice, his signature style capturing the raw energy and dark humor of his reality. These publications became platforms for him to showcase his talent and gain recognition within the art and culture scene.
Though Choe lacked a traditional art education, his learning never ceased. He embraced a self-directed approach, drawing inspiration from diverse sources – the vibrant streets of Los Angeles, collaborations with other artists, and the constant exposure to new cultures and experiences. This unconventional path equipped him with a unique perspective and a deep understanding of the human condition, both of which became hallmarks of his art.
Choe’s career trajectory defied expectations. From his early graffiti days to collaborations with brands like Facebook and murals spanning continents, his artistic journey has been marked by constant evolution and experimentation. His work seamlessly blends pop culture references with introspective themes, inviting viewers to engage with deeper social and personal narratives. Today, he is recognized not just as a graffiti artist but as a multifaceted creative force, encompassing painting, illustration, music, and filmmaking.
Born in Los Angeles in 1976 to Korean immigrant parents, Choe’s artistic journey began early, fueled by the vibrant street art scene of Koreatown. As a teenager, he honed his skills spray-painting under the cover of darkness, his defiance against authority already simmering. Briefly attending the California College of the Arts, Choe found the structured environment stifling, choosing instead to forge his path.
Choe’s talent caught the eye of influential figures like Mark Ryden and Takashi Murakami, propelling him into the underground art scene. He collaborated with magazines like Hustler and Vice, his signature “dirty style” resonating with their raw aesthetic. In 2001, he co-founded Giant Robot, a platform celebrating Asian pop culture, further solidifying his position as a voice of the counterculture.
In a decision that baffled many, Choe famously accepted Facebook stock as payment for designing Mark Zuckerberg’s album cover. This gamble paid off handsomely, allowing Choe to pursue his art without financial constraints. He continued creating, exhibiting internationally, and even ventured into filmmaking with “Dirty Hands,” a documentary exploring his life and artistic process.
Choe’s personal life remains largely private, though glimpses appear on his social media. He actively pursues music, performing with his band and collaborating with artists like Jay-Z. His podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” offered further insight into his philosophical musings and unconventional lifestyle.
Philanthropy and Activism
Choe’s artistic journey began on the city’s streets. His distinctive style, blending pop culture references with humor and social commentary, resonated with audiences. His early works, often guerilla-style interventions, garnered attention, culminating in a solo exhibition at the prestigious Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 2003. This marked a turning point, propelling him from an underground artist to an established figure in the contemporary art scene.
David Choe’s success, however, did not translate into self-indulgence. He recognized the power of his platform to create positive change. In 2005, he famously declined a $60 million offer from Facebook for his stock options, instead requesting shares be donated to charity. This act, documented in the film “Accidental Millionaire,” cemented his image as an artist who valued social impact over personal gain.
Choe believes that education is the bedrock of a just society. This conviction led him to establish the Library Street Foundation in 2012. The foundation, named after his childhood hangout, provides grants to arts education programs and educational initiatives, particularly those focused on underserved communities. The foundation’s impact is far-reaching, nurturing young talent and fostering a love for learning in communities often deprived of such opportunities.
David Choe’s activism extends beyond education. He is a vocal critic of social injustices, using his art and platform to raise awareness about issues like mass incarceration and police brutality. His 2017 mural in Ferguson, Missouri, a powerful depiction of the hands of Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man killed by police, became a symbol of protest and resistance.
Choe understands the interconnectedness of social and environmental issues. He is a passionate advocate for environmental protection, actively supporting organizations working towards sustainability and conservation. His art often incorporates environmental themes, reminding viewers of our responsibility to protect the planet.
Assets and Investments
At the heart of Choe’s wealth lies his undeniable artistic talent. His iconic bucktoothed whale murals splashed across buildings and galleries worldwide, have garnered him critical acclaim and a dedicated following. While specific sales figures are often shrouded in secrecy, a single Choe artwork can fetch up to millions, as evidenced by his 2014 collaboration with Murakami, which sold for a staggering $5.6 million.
David Choe’s entrepreneurial spirit extends far beyond the confines of a studio. He has launched several successful ventures, including a clothing line (Mr. Cartoon x David Choe), a production company (Mutilated Pixel), and even a gallery space (Library Street). These ventures not only diversify his income stream but also provide outlets for his creativity and collaborations with other artists.
Unlike your typical Wall Street wolf, Choe’s investment philosophy is anything but conventional. He famously bartered Facebook stock for Facebook tattoos, a move that turned out to be a stroke of genius as the social media giant soared in value. He also reportedly invested in Uber early on, further solidifying his reputation for calculated risk-taking. While details of his current portfolio remain private, his past successes suggest a bold approach, prioritizing intuition over traditional metrics.
David Choe’s real estate portfolio reflects his eclectic tastes and love for Los Angeles. From a sprawling Hollywood Hills mansion to a Venice Beach bungalow, his properties are not just investments but also homes that embody his vibrant personality. Additionally, his keen eye for potential extends beyond residential spaces, with reports suggesting ownership of commercial properties that further contribute to his financial stability.
True to his artistic sensibilities, Choe’s collection extends beyond traditional investments. He is known to be an avid collector of his own artworks, alongside pieces by other artists that resonate with him. This personal collection represents not just financial value but also a reflection of his artistic journey and the artists he admires.
David Choe’s artistic journey began on the streets of Los Angeles, where he honed his graffiti skills under the moniker “Muertos.” His bold style and subversive humor caught the eye of skateboard brands and musicians, leading to collaborations with brands like KR3W and musicians like Jay-Z. In 2003, Marc Ecko, founder of the streetwear brand Ecko Unlimited, commissioned Choe to paint murals in his office, marking a turning point in Choe’s career. This unorthodox collaboration not only brought Choe’s art into a corporate setting but also cemented his reputation as a versatile and unconventional artist.
In 2012, Choe made headlines with his massive mural for Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, titled “Life.” This vibrant, sprawling artwork depicting various aspects of human experience ignited discussions about the role of art in tech giants’ spaces. The collaboration not only challenged perceptions of corporate art but also showcased Choe’s ability to adapt his style to large-scale projects.
The same year, Choe ventured into television with “Choe Show,” a series of animated shorts on HBO. Featuring his signature characters and humor, the show offered a glimpse into Choe’s unique perspective and further solidified his presence in the mainstream media.
David Choe’s collaborative spirit extends beyond brands and media. He often teams up with fellow artists, creating dynamic and unexpected results. In 2019, he joined forces with renowned muralists Aryz, Esao Andrews, James Jean, and El Mac for the Igloo Hong Project in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This collective endeavor resulted in a series of stunning murals that revitalized the city’s landscape and fostered cultural exchange.
On a more personal level, Choe has collaborated with his mother, Momoko, on several art projects. Their heartwarming partnership challenges traditional notions of family dynamics and artistic collaboration, proving that creativity can blossom anywhere, anytime.
Awards and Nomination
In 1995, the Xeric Grant, a prestigious award aimed at supporting self-publishing comic book creators, provided him with the impetus to create his first graphic novel, “Slow Jams.” This raw and unconventional work laid the foundation for his signature “dirty style,” characterized by frenetic brushstrokes and unflinching honesty.
The 2008 documentary “Dirty Hands: The Art and Crimes of David Choe” offered a deeper dive into his life and work. The film, nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Harry Kim San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (2009), went on to win the Special Jury Award for Documentary at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (2011). These accolades highlighted not only Choe’s artistic talent but also the captivating personal narrative woven into his art.
David Choe’s creative pursuits extend beyond visual arts. His musical collaborations and acting roles showcase his multifaceted talent. However, it was his involvement in the critically acclaimed dark comedy series “Beef” (2023) that propelled him into the mainstream spotlight. His nuanced performance garnered widespread praise, and the show itself swept nominated categories at the 2024 Golden Globes.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that Choe hasn’t been without controversy. Resurfaced comments, deemed inappropriate by many, led to complex discussions surrounding his work and public image. These discussions ultimately impacted award nominations for “Beef,” highlighting the nuanced relationship between artistic merit and personal conduct.
Significant Life events
Born in Los Angeles in 1976 to Korean immigrants, Choe found solace in the fantastical worlds of comic books. He devoured issues of Marvel and DC, immersing himself in the vibrant narratives and captivating artwork. This early fascination with visual storytelling soon spilled onto the streets, where Choe, like many young Angelenos in the 1990s, embraced the burgeoning graffiti scene. He honed his skills under the tutelage of seasoned artists like Mear One and Hex, developing a signature style characterized by bold lines, playful characters, and a touch of mischief.
David Choe artistic talent extended beyond the urban canvas. In the late 1990s, Choe’s graphic novels, “Slow Jams” and “Bruised Fruit,” garnered critical acclaim for their raw humor and introspective narratives. These works established him as a rising star in the alternative comics scene, paving the way for solo exhibitions at prestigious galleries like the Santa Rosa Museum of Contemporary Art in 2005.
David Choe’s artistic evolution took a bold turn in the 2000s. His canvas became a platform for exploring themes of sexuality, violence, and societal norms. His artwork, often featuring provocative imagery and social commentary, attracted both adoration and controversy. He collaborated with musicians like Jay-Z and Linkin Park, creating iconic album covers that mirrored his raw and unfiltered perspective.
Perhaps the most iconic piece from this period is his 2008 portrait of Barack Obama, a vibrant depiction of the then-presidential candidate surrounded by dollar bills and marijuana smoke. This controversial piece, initially rejected by Obama’s campaign, eventually found its way into the White House after his election, sparking conversations about censorship and artistic freedom.
The release of the documentary “Dirty Hands: The Art and Crimes of David Choe” in 2008 marked a pivotal moment in Choe’s life. The film offered a candid look into his struggles with addiction and self-doubt, prompting him to embark on a journey of self-reflection and artistic renewal.
This introspective period led to a shift in his artistic style. While his signature boldness remained, his work was infused with elements of abstraction and social commentary. He began tackling complex themes like environmentalism and globalism, his art evolving into a platform for questioning and challenging the status quo.
Choe’s artistic renaissance has garnered international acclaim. He has showcased his work in renowned galleries and museums worldwide, collaborated with brands like Nike and Samsung, and even created the official artwork for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Impact and legacy
Choe’s artistic inclinations surfaced early. He honed his skills on the city’s concrete canvas, leaving his signature across various districts under the moniker “Mear One.” His graffiti wasn’t simply about aesthetics; it was a form of cultural critique, injecting humor and social commentary into the urban landscape. This rebellious spirit caught the attention of skateboard brand Alien Workshop, leading to a fateful collaboration in 1996 that would change his trajectory.
David Choe’s Alien Workshop designs catapulted him into the art world spotlight. His raw energy and unconventional style resonated with collectors and gallerists alike, culminating in his first solo exhibition in 2003. His work, often characterized by expressive brushstrokes and playful characters, blurred the lines between street art and fine art, challenging artistic conventions.
Perhaps the most defining moment of Choe’s career came in 2006 when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg commissioned him to paint a mural for the company’s new headquarters. Choe, initially hesitant, agreed to a hefty sum – 100 shares of Facebook stock. Little did he know, these seemingly insignificant shares would skyrocket in value, making him a multi-millionaire overnight. The incident, documented in the film “Accidental Millionaire,” became a pop-culture phenomenon, solidifying Choe’s unconventional path to success.
Choe’s Midas touch transcended the art world. He ventured into entrepreneurship, establishing clothing lines like “Mr. Cartoon” and publishing books like “Brushstroke.” His business acumen mirrored his artistic boldness, defying expectations and carving his niche.
While basking in his creative and financial success, Choe never forgot his roots. He actively supports various charities, including The Pablove Foundation and Doctors Without Borders, channeling his resources to create positive change. This commitment to social impact stands as a testament to his values and inspires aspiring artists and entrepreneurs alike.
What is David Choe’s Net Worth?
David Choe’s net worth is estimated to be around $300 million.
Where was David Choe born and raised?
David Choe was born in Los Angeles, California on April 21, 1976, and raised in Koreatown by Korean immigrant parents.
Did David Choe attend college?
No, David Choe dropped out of high school and spent two years traveling and hitchhiking before pursuing his artistic career.
Is David Choe married or have any children?
As of 2024, David Choe is not married and has no children publicly known.
Has David Choe faced any controversies?
Yes, in 2014, Choe made a controversial statement about a past sexual encounter, which he later recanted and called “bad storytelling.” This incident has garnered criticism and calls for boycotts of his work.
Is David Choe involved in any philanthropic initiatives?
Yes, Choe has supported various charities and causes, including the International Rescue Committee and the Free Arts NYC. He also donates to individual artists and community projects.
Does David Choe advocate for any specific causes?
Choe has spoken out about social justice issues, mental health awareness, and advocating for the arts.
What are David Choe’s most well-known artistic achievements?
He gained fame for his graffiti art, murals, and paintings. Notably, he created the Facebook logo and worked on animated shows like “South Park.”
Has David Choe explored other creative avenues?
Yes, Choe has written and published books, acted in films and TV shows like “Beef,” and released music as MC Chozen.
Who are some notable collaborators of David Choe?
He has collaborated with artists like Keith Haring, and Shepard Fairey, and musicians like Kanye West and Jay-Z. He also worked with companies like Facebook and Nike.
Are there any collaborations that stand out for their impact?
David Choe’s work for Facebook and his association with street art culture are considered significant collaborations that helped shape his career trajectory.
Has David Choe received any awards for his work?
He has won awards for his art and graphic design, including the Young Guns Award and the ADC Silver Cube Award.
Is David Choe recognized by any major art institutions?
His work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London.
What are some major events that shaped David Choe’s life?
His turbulent childhood, witnessing the LA riots, dropping out of school, and his early success with graffiti are all significant events that influenced his personal and artistic journey.
Has David Choe overcome any significant challenges?
Choe has struggled with addiction and mental health issues, which he openly discusses and advocates for awareness about.
How has David Choe impacted the art world?
He is considered a pioneer in street art and contemporary art, blurring the lines between high and low culture. His work has inspired generations of artists and continues to be influential.
What is David Choe lasting legacy?
Choe’s impact extends beyond art, influencing popular culture and sparking conversations about social issues and mental health. His unique style and outspoken nature have left an indelible mark.
What are some lesser-known facts about David Choe?
He is a skilled martial artist, a tattoo enthusiast, and a passionate collector of vintage toys and comic books.
Does David Choe have any interesting nicknames?
He is sometimes called “Choe” or “MC Chozen” in the music world.