"We are currently having a contest among employees to find interesting artifacts for our collection," Meyer said. "One of our employees from Atlantic City, one who spends an awful lot of time on sites like [AOLNews.com], informed us of the painting."
The painting he's speaking of is "Self-Portrait With Gun" and was made by San Francisco-based artist Chris Trueman from 200,000 dead ants.
However, the ants didn't die in vain, thanks to a story that appeared on AOLNews.com on May 25. As a result, Trueman has made a different kind of killing -- the financial kind.
Trueman's representative Alexander Salazar, who displayed the painting in his San Diego gallery, says that article attracted the media like, well, ants to a picnic.
"It brought the piece to a worldwide level," he said. "People wanted to hear Chris' story about the painting, and hear his worry. When you hear someone feel bad about killing the ants for art, it wins you over."
The ant painting aroused the attention of the art mavens at Ripley's, who initially wanted to include the portrait in one of its books before deciding to put the unusual picture in one of its museums.
Although the price for the piece is not being disclosed, it was originally priced at $35,000. More important to Salazar is the joy of knowing the piece won't be hiding in someone's private gallery.
"This is a piece that needed to be in a collection on display," Salazar said. "To have it in a book is great, but to have it on display is even better. Ripley's is not the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but they do collect art -- weird art -- art that challenges the human psyche. Basically, the ants will be in the public eye. They did not die in vain!"
"When Ripley's inquired about purchasing the work, I was really pleased. I think, as an artist, we have aspirations for our artwork. We make the art hoping that it will move beyond our control and take on its own life in the world," Trueman said.
"The prospect that the work could be seen by such a large number of people is astounding," he continued. "I'm also very happy that it will be housed and displayed -- the work was never meant to spend its life in my studio. I want it to be out there, being seen and provoking dialogue."
Meanwhile, Meyer has a more straightforward reason for buying Trueman's work.
"It's made out of ants," he said. "I don't claim to be an art expert, but here was a painting made out of ants. I still wanted to see the picture before we bought it, but knowing it was made out of ants made it appealing to us."
Once the deal is finalized and the painting is sent to the Ripley's warehouse, curators there will determine which location it will be sent to, although insiders predict it's most likely going to the Los Angeles museum.
Trueman has no plans to do any more paintings, but Salazar is excited about having a potentially rewarding relationship with Ripley's.
"I found an artist who uses spoons and a woman who makes great works of art from panties, bras and corsets," he said. "And another who makes sculptures out of spoons."