Updated 

Artist targets Welcome to Las Vegas sign for paintings


A New York artist billed as “the new Andy Warhol” is planning to paint a 10-piece series of the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

Domingo Zapata, who has built a celebrity following in recent years, will arrive in early October to pay tribute to a landmark that “means so much, not only to the history of Las Vegas, but to the entertainment world.”

The New York Post described Zapata as “the new Warhol, with starlets begging for a sitting.” His clients include Leonardo DiCaprio and billionaire George Soros. Johnny Depp showed up for one of Zapata’s art shows. Zapata’s website said he is a former songwriter for Michael Jackson, Jon Secada and Los Del Rio, best known for “Macarena.”

Zapata, 38, told me he will camp out at sunrise on the first day for 6 or 7 hours of sketching and taking photos.

“I want to do it old school,” he said. “I don’t want to rush. It’s kind of like dating the sign. I want it to be very spontaneous. I want to absorb all of its energy through the years and pull it together.”

Zapata, who was born in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, said he has been searching for an iconic subject.

He said he’s studied about 1,000 images of the sign, which was erected in 1959 at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard.

In 2005, LeRoy Neiman, then 83, was commissioned by the city of Las Vegas to paint the sign for a poster commemorating the city’s 100th anniversary. He painted it on a 32-by-25-inch canvas.

Zapata said his paintings will be 5 to 6 feet high. He produces figurative and abstract expressionist painting in both oil and acrylics, as well as mixed media and collage.

Two of the 10 pieces will be donated, one to the Las Vegas Academy of Art and the other to a charity to be determined, he said.

The other eight will be part of a show in New York in late spring, he said.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Mo5aic, former “America’s Got Talent” participants, open a one-year engagement at LVH’s Shimmer Lounge on Friday, their first residency. It’s a well-deserved break for the group that racked up big wins as MTV’s top pop group and “Next Great A Cappella Group” on the CBS “Early Show.” The judges, Boyz II Men, would know. They appear Friday through Monday. ...

When Elton John goes out of his way to pay a compliment to a fellow artist, as he did with super hot Bruno Mars on a video during Friday’s iHeartRadio Music Festival, it shouldn’t be a surprise if they did get together one of these days for a duet. By the way, Mars, said to be heading for The Cosmopolitan, isn’t the only Grammy winner exploring a headliner residency here. Secada, a two-time Grammy winner, tells me he’s hoping to land a deal here in the next year.

SIGHTINGS

Paul McCartney, sitting in the audience with his wife, Nancy, cheering on Tim McGraw during his iHeartRadio performance on Saturday. ... McGraw, dining with friends at CUT (Palazzo) on Saturday after his performance. ... Steve Harvey, in town as a special guest at iHeartRadio, shot an episode Saturday of “The Steve Harvey Show” at A Little White Wedding Chapel. While filming, Harvey and longtime Elvis impersonator Jesse Garon, who serves as a reverend, hit it off. Garon, a big Redd Foxx fan who once owned the comedy great’s Las Vegas estate, presented Harvey with one of Foxx’s monogrammed neckties and a bank check from the Redd Foxx Production company from 1977 and signed by Foxx. ... Former boxing champion Leon Spinks and his wife, Brenda, rocking out in the front row for Tony Orlando’s show at the South Point on Saturday. Orlando was best man at the Spinkses’ wedding Oct. 9, 2011 in Las Vegas.

THE PUNCH LINE

“A plane had to make an emergency landing in France because a dozen Scottish passengers wouldn’t stop dancing. The police have released a statement saying that alcohol may have been a factor. Now, I am Scottish. I KNOW alcohol was a factor. There is no ‘may’ about this.” — Craig Ferguson

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more at normclarke.com. Follow @Norm_Clarke on Twitter. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.