Artist Neiman's life and career shaped by Las Vegas


Artist LeRoy Neiman died Wednesday in New York at 91.

But Las Vegas played a major role in Neiman's work and life.

"My guess is he spent half of his life here," said Richard Perry, president of Centaur Galleries at Fashion Show mall, who has sold Neiman's work for more than four decades.

Neiman "did work for every major casino owner" in Las Vegas, Perry said. Steve Wynn, for example, "had three major paintings" by Neiman, one of which he recently sold.

A 4-by-8-foot Neiman painting hung in the roulette room of the long-gone Desert Inn, located on the Strip where the Wynn and Encore resorts now stand, according to Perry.

And Caesars Palace at one time had 20 to 30 Neiman canvases, which were so valuable the hotel displayed reproductions - and put the originals in a registered warehouse, he said.

Centaur Galleries has "dozens, literally hundreds" of Neiman originals; his large paintings command anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000, Perry said.

The official painter of five Olympiads, Neiman also captured major boxing matches on canvas, including those in Las Vegas.

But the artist's sports-related works represent only about 18 percent of his total output, Perry estimated, citing large paintings focusing on a variety of subjects, from flamenco dancers to U.S. presidents to such performers as Louis Armstrong.

Neiman's use of extraordinary, vibrant color and his ability to convey a sense of movement characterized his work, Perry commented.

With his trademark handlebar moustache and high profile (Neiman's claims to fame included a long stint at Playboy magazine), Neiman was hardly the tortured artist type, according to Carolyn Solomon, president of Las Vegas' S2 Art Center on South Valley View Boulevard.

Solomon's husband, Jack, worked with Neiman in the '70s in Chicago, printing lithographs, silk screens and etchings of the artist's work.

"I can tell you, he was every bit the bon vivant," Solomon said of Neiman, describing him as "the life of the party."

About five years ago, Neiman dropped by S2 Art's former location, in downtown's Arts District, to greet his old friends and check out their printing presses.

"Everybody hugged everybody," she recalled, and Neiman went on to regale S2's young printers with stories of his life and art.

"He never left a bad path behind him," Solomon said. "He left everyone cheering him on."

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

 

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