John Wayne Gacy, although mostly known for being a relentless serial killer and sex offender during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, also created artwork during his time on death row. Also known as the Killer Clown, Gacy performed at several children’s hospitals and charitable events in which he met many of his victims. He was convicted with 33 counts of murder and 3 counts of sexual assault, specifically against the population of boys and young men. In 1982, when Gacy was on death row in Illinois, he began to express his creative tendencies with paint and canvases. Before he was executed in 1994 via lethal injection, he created over 2,000 paintings within this 12 year time period.
The content of Gacy’s paintings and drawings varied from illustrations of historical and political figures, to landscapes to clowns and satanic depictions. Before his execution the Tatou Art Gallery in Beverly Hills, California put up three dozen of Gacy’s paintings for sale. One of Gacy’s most expensive artworks was a self-portrait of the clown character he portrayed most often when he worked in hospitals, children’s parties and other events. Also known as “Pogo the Clown,” this of many self-portraits depicted Gacy with fangs and was sold for $20,000. Surprisingly, there are many online sites dedicated to auctioning off collectibles from infamous serial killers. Websites such as “Murder Auction’ and “Supernaught True Crime Gallery” have sold paintings from John Wayne Gacy ranging from $6,000 to $175,000. The reasoning behind the more expensive paintings is because it was an illustration of Gacy’s house which included the crawl space where he buried the majority of his victims. In 2011, the Art Factory in Las Vegas there was a showing titled, “Multiples: The Artwork of John Wayne Gacy.” The beginning of the controversial topic of selling serial killer relics, the money earned from the auctioning of his paintings went to charities to compensate for the victims of his psychosis.
The process of selling paintings created by a serial killer and torturer is the ultimate form of romanticization. It is no different than the traditional move done by media companies such as Netflix and Amazon to create documentaries about serial killers. Especially because the most profitable paintings done by Gacy were depictions of his clown character, the same persona he used to meet many of his victims. Even though Gacy is dead and the crimes he committed are horrendous, there is still something to say about how much his paintings were sold for. Done by any other individual, the paintings would be essentially worthless, especially considering their amateur depictions. But because it is done by a murderer, a person who takes their psychopathic tendencies to the extreme, are hard to come by in society. Not to mention the fact that Gacy specifically killed and sexually assaulted children and adolescents, are these crimes simply ignored because people want to occupy an empty space on their wall and because they fetishize serial killers?