The owner of the Café de la Rotonde in Paris would allow starving artists to pay for their drinks with a painting or drawing. In the 1900s the walls of the cafe would have been casually adorned with works now considered priceless.
A museum says they gave an artist $84,000 in cash to use in artwork. He delivered blank canvases and titled them “Take the Money and Run.”
The surrealist poet Andre Breton criticized Salvador Dali’s commercial success by nicknaming him “Avida Dollars” which is an anagram for Dali’s name and translates into ‘avid for dollars’. Breton believed that Dali was compromising the integrity of the surrealist movement.
James Franco once created an invisible sculpture called ‘Fresh Air’. It was described as an endless supply of oxygen. Someone actually bought the ‘sculpture’ for $10,000.
Han van Meegeren was a legendary art forger who sold fake Old Master paintings to the Nazis during the occupation of the Netherlands, once cheating Hermann Göring out of over a million guilders. He is now celebrated as a Dutch national hero.
In Japan, some have the status of the Living National Treasures of Japan. They are individuals and groups certified by the government, who are masters of a traditional art or craft that is in danger of being lost. As a reward, they receive a small amount of money from the government annually.
The painting “The Scream” was stolen the same day as the opening of the 1994 Olympics; the thieves left a note saying “thanks for the poor security”.
Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” was sold at auction in 1958 for £45, and again in 2005 for under $10,000. In 2011, it was authenticated as a Leonardo original. It was then sold in 2013 for $75 million, sold again for $127.5 million, and later sold at auction in 2017 for $450.3 million.
Michelangelo hid under the Medici Chapel in Florence for 3 months during a period of political turmoil, occupying his time by sketching on the walls with charcoal. His whereabouts were a secret for almost 500 years until the museum director stumbled upon the drawings in 1976.
In 2003, a woman found a stolen painting worth $1 million in the trash on a NYC curb. She felt it “had power” and took it without knowing its origin or value. She spent 4 years researching it and discovered it’d been stolen in 1987. She got a $15,000 reward plus a % of its $1,049,000 sale price.