Artist Taps Into Anger At Corporate CEOs

A Brooklyn artist is giving Wall Streeters the opportunity to vent their irritation with corporate America. Geoffrey Raymond takes his over-sized paintings of CEOs to Wall Street, then asks passers-by to write comments on his artwork.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick. In these perilous economic times, where do you Wall Streeters go for a place to vent?

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Well, right out on the street, on the sidewalks, spot favored by Brooklyn artist, Geoffrey Raymond. He'll hand you a magic marker and point you to one of his large portraits of a big-time corporate CEO. Your mission? Sign the portrait, write whatever you want, love or loathing, across the canvas.

CHADWICK: And you won't be alone. When news broke last week that Lehman Brothers was bound for bankruptcy, he headed for the investment bank's Manhattan headquarters, and there Geoffrey Raymond stood outside with his painting of the Lehman Chief, Richard Fuld. Dozens of people going by, including some Lehman employees, took the chance to scrawl down their thoughts.

Mr. GEOFFREY RAYMOND (Artist): Marker, sir?

BRAND: Geoffrey Raymond is back in New York's financial district this week and he's got another annotated portrait. This one's of Hank Greenberg, the former head of American International Group, or AIG, one of several companies that fell into deep financial trouble recently.

Mr. RAYMOND: Would you like a marker, sir? If you work for AIG you get a blue one, if you don't you get a black one. Do you work at AIG?

Unidentified Man: I used to.

Mr. RAYMOND: Close enough. You get a blue one. You can write anything you want, just don't write on the actual face in the painting.

Unidentified Man: What about bad words?

Mr. RAYMOND: You can write anything you want.

CHADWICK: Yesterday, around lunchtime, Geoffrey stood with his five foot tall painting and a handful of sharpeners. He smiled a lot and seemed friendly, the sort of guy you might ask for direction on the street corner. He was right across the street from AIG's offices.

Mr. RAYMOND: And you can see through - people say 10 or 15 feet into the lobby coming out, and as they focus on what's across the street they start to get this look of recognition, and then they start to smile, or they start to frown. Then they sort of pause, and then I say, would you like a marker, and they then, more or less, flee. So they are actually going, wow, what the hell is that? Would you like a marker, man?

CHADWICK: People walking by were curious, but a little timid. When he offered up markers, many looked away. Some said they worried about getting in trouble for signing the piece, even though Geoffrey said they could write anything they wanted, even happy birthday. Well that was enough to get others to get in.

Mr. PAUL BRESTOWITZ: My name is Paul Brestowitz (ph). I did the write up, just a quick note. I would say, please keep sending that pension check. I love the artwork. I think this is great. He's always been the face of AIG. I wonder if we need to buy him coffee now.

BRAND: Geoffrey Raymond started his annotated portraits last year. The first one was of Rupert Murdoch, after he bought the Wall Street Journal. Now Geoffrey's portrait of AIG's Hank Greenberg is up on eBay for 7,500 dollars.

CHADWICK: And he's already sold his painting of the Lehman Brothers CEO, which went complete with comments like, bloodsuckers, see you at the soup kitchen, and what a day, what a year, what a firm. Still, the artist says he's not anti-Wall Street. Most of his customers work there, he says, or elsewhere in Manhattan's financial district. He says he's just creating a snapshot of these extraordinary times.

BRAND: And it's not just about the marketplace. He is a public artist, listening to what people are saying.

Mr. RAYMOND: Sarah Palin is next if you - by popular demand. The number of people who say to me, you've got to paint Sarah Palin. I can't just not do it now because I have to service my clientele.

BRAND: Geoffrey Raymond is a painter living in Brooklyn.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: