Greed Gone Wild in 2008

In a year defined by bailouts and bankruptcy, New York painter Geoffrey Raymond is one of the lucky few. His business is booming, selling pricey portraits of the business titans some say are responsible for today's financial crisis.

Caught on canvas are former Bear Stearns CEO James Cayne, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld.

If art is an unspoken language, Raymond has given his a voice, by asking passersby on Wall Street to scrawl their thoughts directly on his work. "Can I tempt you with a marker?" he asks.

A friend gave him the idea to paint the well-known Wall Street figures. "I'm giving a voice to the people who don't have a voice, even if it's five words on a painting; it's something." (Click here to visit Raymond's Web site.)

In September, shortly after Lehman Brothers announced the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history, Raymond stationed himself outside company offices in Manhattan to ask employees and passersby to sign his portrait of Fuld.

"By a wide margin, the most popular word on my painting is greed," Raymond said.

The word "greed" seems to crop up on many portraits, "particularly with the CEOs of companies that have gone under, because people that are writing on those are frequently employees who have just lost their job and they are, in fact, angry," he added. "There's a sense that if people had settled for perhaps a little less, we all wouldn't be in this situation."

Similarly, on the portrait of Cayne, Raymond said, "a middle-aged woman wrote, 'My blood is boiling.'"

He said "many signatures seemed to be filled with anger and frustration, but the last annotation on the Cayne painting was, 'It's been a good ride.'"

Greed: 'More Than They Could Afford'

The image of greed isn't solely in portraits: Massachusetts State Senator Diane Wilkerson was caught on camera allegedly stuffing her bra with cash bribes. Wilkerson, a Democrat, resigned her post recently and pleaded not guilty in U.S. District court to conspiracy and attempted extortion. She's free on bond.

New York financier Bernard Madoff is accused of stuffing his pockets -- squandering $50 billion in investor money.

"Everything that we planned for our whole life is gone," Arnold Sinkin, a retired carpet salesman who had saved close to $1 million, told "Good Morning America."

All his money was managed by Madoff. Film director Steven Spielberg and publishing and real estate magnate Mort Zuckerman were also among the victims -- and the list keeps growing, both in the United States and abroad.

But did greed lead to this year's most iconic images -- of an unprecedented economic meltdown, including the steepest stock market drops in history (Sept. 29, 2008, brought the biggest drop in the Dow's history, 777.68 points.)

As the market continued to fall, unemployment surged to 6.7 percent in November 2008; and unemployed businessmen gained national media attention, caught offering their services wearing signs advertising their experience.

Joshua Persky, an unemployed engineer, wore an "Experienced MIT Grad for Hire" sign around New York City while handing out resumes. "Desperate times call for desperate measures," Persky told the The New York Post.

The economic collapse also led to revered investment banks destroyed practically overnight. "It's terrible, it's terrible ... people are grabbing all of their stuff," one former Bear Stearns worker said.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...