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Domingo Zapata: Artist & Humanitarian

Domingo Zapata: Artist & Humanitarian

R. Couri Hay

Photographs Courtesy of Domingo Zapata

Domingo Zapata: Artist & Humanitarian

Younger Artists / Previous Faculty

 Artist Domingo Zapata will probably be honored on the Brooklyn Borough President’s Latino Heritage Celebration on Thursday, October 17th. The theme of the occasion is Younger Artists/Previous Faculty and Domingo will give the keynote speech. Zapata has additionally created the illustrations for The Lonely Princess by Marie Ferraro from Lightswitch Studying, which comes out in time for the vacations in November. The guide is concerning the energy of friendship, generosity, and respect for the variations between individuals. 

“Life is a Dream”

Domingo’s 15-story mural that wraps across the One Occasions Sq.. Options his mantra, “Life is a Dream” amidst flowers, flamingos and polo ponies. The artist stated, “For me, it’s an honor to be a part of the story by creating Life Is a Dream, the most important mural in New York. I need to convey this message to individuals from everywhere in the world who go to Occasions Sq. and who can take pleasure in and get to know my artwork.” The mural can be on view by means of January 1st.

‘Life is A Dream’ in Occasions Sq.

Success, Distinction & the Way forward for Patronage

Zapata’s early impressions as an artist, coupled with a number of high-profile shoppers, first cultivated a fame as an artist du jour. However after 15 years and making a portfolio of artwork value over $40 million, the Spaniard’s ever-increasing success – and the inventive imaginative and prescient underlying it – continues to color a decidedly totally different image.

For years, Domingo Zapata has been, in a phrase, busy. 

It’s not simply the work, which for the final decade have required perpetual work to maintain any quantity of stock. It’s not the growing variety of sculpture and mural commissions that he fulfills or the increasing social media enter. Neither is it his many exhibitions or the myriad variety of collectors and shoppers, together with Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Diana Picasso, the Missoni Household, and funding financial institution Goldman Sachs.

As an alternative, it’s what Zapata has been doing together with his personal time. Whether or not it’s collaborations with international figures akin to Alejandro Sanz, designing garments for his trend exhibits, donating paintings to innumerable charity occasions, writing a novel, portray with Pope Francis, or serving as a visitor speaker on the United Nations to advocate for artwork schooling, Zapata has accomplished all of it. 

Pope Image

The ensuing picture is in stark distinction to the one which Zapata’s earliest critics predicted – that of an “artist to the celebs.” However Zapata’s outlook and ascent have been remarkably constant for the previous fifteen years – the period of his profession as an artist – and the predilections of the previous have been unraveled yr by yr, portray by portray, achievement by achievement. 

Because the artist himself notes, his works “distinction between the previous and current, and attempt to make the work say one thing concerning the future.” It’s becoming, then, that Zapata himself is one such distinction, in artwork as in life; and with a previous not steeped in positive artwork, however quite, in humble beginnings on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

Zapata’s Early Years

Had Zapata ambled as much as a youthful model of himself on Mallorca within the early 1980s, he would have probably discovered himself again within the storage his father labored in. And even then, it might not have been shocking to see him with paintbrush in hand. “I all the time beloved to color,” Zapata notes. “It’s one thing I used to be obsessive about since I used to be a child. We had a automotive store, and my dad fastened and painted automobiles, and my mother was a painter. We lived on prime of the store, so every single day I lived with the paint and the fumes. The surroundings I grew up in was one with a artistic household.”

However when it got here to portray full-time, Zapata – who graduated from American College with a level in political science – was at first extra pragmatic, particularly after his transfer to New York Metropolis in 1999, the place the artwork scene was notably intimidating. “Shifting to New York, I by no means thought I had an opportunity. I got here from this humble background, and I didn’t even know the place to start out. I took the primary job that was out there, to outlive, and in these days, the roles have been in finance.”

For the subsequent ten years, he labored in company, portray in his residence when he might. That’s, till someday in 2005, when a good friend, contractor Michael Borrico, took an curiosity in an image of a polo horse that Zapata had painted and positioned in his workplace.

Blue Polo Horse

“This good friend of mine got here by our workplace and he stated, ‘Oh, I really like that portray, I’d love to point out it to a good friend of mine,’ Zapata recollects. “It was a portray of a polo horse. And I stated to him ‘I did it.’ And he’s like, ‘I can’t consider you probably did that!’ And I stated, ‘Look, I’ve a studio in my home; it’s a interest. I do that.’”

Satisfied he had discovered expertise, Borrico organized a dinner and exhibition at his home, the place Zapata’s work gained its first crucial recognition. Numerous gallery representatives purchased work, and the pal that Borrico had talked about so casually within the workplace turned out to be none aside from billionaire George Soros, who made a purchase order of a polo portray titled “Blue Horse.” 

The suggestions was overwhelmingly constructive. “All of them motivated me to dedicate myself to artwork,” Zapata stated. “I give up my job and began portray. I used to be working within the company world for greater than ten years, leaving a job the place you have been making some cash. However I assumed, if I don’t do it now, in my early thirties, when am I going to do it? So I went and I stated, ‘fuck it, I’m going to go forward and do it.’ And thank God it labored!”

Requested if this unusual street to the start of his inventive profession had an impression on his eventual fashion, Zapata answered within the affirmative. “That’s the place my unconventional method of doing issues got here from. Once I needed to go to school, everyone stated no, once I was in school, everyone stated no, once I needed to get a job, everyone stated no, and once I needed to be an artist everyone stated no. So I stated, you recognize what, I’m simply going to do issues my method, and no one’s going to say no to me.”

Domingo ZapataSuperman by Domingo Zapata

2011 : Artist to Watch

He by no means appeared again. Zapata started portray incessantly, creating works for occasions, commissions, and “pop-up exhibits:” sponsored, transitory exhibitions. In 2011, he was named Whitewall Journal’s “Artist to Watch,” slowly cultivating a clientele starting from typical collectors to superstar purchasers. Small occasions ultimately transitioned into bigger gatherings, and through the years the friends at such exhibits ballooned into the hundreds. 

As Zapata’s clientele grew, so did his alternatives. He started holding reveals all through the world, together with appearances in Paris, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Venice, Rome, Singapore, and Monte Carlo. From these gatherings, he generated continued curiosity in his work and commenced receiving common commissions. Movie star shoppers whom he had met alongside the best way additionally continued to purchase, together with Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio. Such efforts bore fruit: in 2005, his work bought for $5,000; in 2011, $30,000; in 2015, $40,000 to $50,000. Now, in 2019, Zapata’s smaller work sells for $60,000 to $70,000, together with his bigger gallery items and sculptures repeatedly promoting for nicely over $100,000 a bit. And maybe extra impressively, he has no stock of paintings, as his works and commissions have bought out utterly for the final ten years. 

Artistry: Type and Substance

Given the thrill surrounding Zapata’s artistry, one would anticipate the works themselves to be equally thrilling; and certainly not do they disappoint. Falling roughly inside the confines of neo-expressionism and pop artwork, Zapata’s works make the most of daring use of shade and exploration of themes reminiscent of sexuality, energy, and opulence. However greater than something, his work is outlined against this. Inside a single displaying, one may see the Mona Lisa bedecked by some means magnificently with graffiti, combined media, and a platoon of main colours; a pop artwork panda sporting backgrounds with neon geometry or sinister scenes emulating crucifixion; a backyard with superbly ornate flowers and progress breaking freed from inflexible outlines; bullfighter jackets, or chaquetillas, generously marked with shade and textual content; or one thing as commonplace as an airplane vividly portrayed from the entrance, a merciless line and three blurred propellers screaming towards the hues and textual content they seem like suspended in. 

“I wish to work in several themes,” Zapata muses, “for issues that I’m enthusiastic about. After which I like to make use of totally different methods on these themes, based on the theme. Nevertheless, the strokes are all the time the identical…so if you see my work, you will notice and acknowledge it’s mine, it’s Domingo Zapata, due to my colours, the strokes, and messages, and the kind of mixture and dialog of colours.”

Zapata’s consideration to such distinction is the cornerstone of lots of his themes, each in how he views artwork and the way he views actuality. It may be seen in nearly each collection he creates, whether or not it’s the juxtaposition of Polaroid and acrylic in his ‘Ten’ collection, for which Sofia Vergara and others have sat, or the larger-than life figures in his superhero work as they sit amongst graffiti. This, he states, is not any totally different than how we’d see it in actual life. “The world we stay in is about distinction,” he says emphatically. “In New York Metropolis, you possibly can stay in a twenty-million-dollar penthouse, you go downstairs, and there’s someone sleeping in your door. These contrasts have an affect on me, as a result of I’m a distinction. I used to be born in a really humble household that was making a mean of $800 per 30 days for his or her whole lives, and I could make a portray value greater than $100,000.”

It’s for such causes, Zapata notes, that he cares a lot about emulating distinction in his personal fashion, though his background and later immigration to america have additionally closely affected his artistic course of. “As a Spaniard loving artwork, I used to be introduced up understanding – or,” he corrects himself, “studying, higher than understanding – about Velasquez and Goya and Picasso and Dali…after which I moved to New York and had an enormous affect from the popular culture of the 80s that was simply type of turning into the start of the 90s. So I had the top of that motion with Warhol and Basquiat. It created this ardour for distinction, the place I might attempt to take the grasp’s work and make it modern utilizing modern methods.”

When requested about how he needs his inventive fashion to impression others, Zapata was fast to reply:

“The whole lot’s potential, that goals are potential, that in the event you go and work very onerous you’ll be able to obtain no matter you need on this life, regardless of who you’re or the place you come from. That’s what I painting in my work. And it’s all the time constructive and it’s all the time making an attempt to make you are feeling good. I all the time say I don’t know something, actually, about enterprise or about politics, you realize, however I do know methods to make this world extra lovely. Different individuals could make it higher; I’m simply going to make it lovely if I can.

“I attempt to use my work to affect these individuals in a constructive approach, to make them really feel good. And if they’ve it of their home they usually get up within the morning they usually’re going via any struggles, or no matter – in the event that they take a look at my portray and it makes them really feel higher to go to work, and to make the world higher – then I’m doing my job. And that’s what I do, that’s my motif, that’s my fashion.”

Domingo ZapataLetters to Panda, Acrylic on Canvas by Domingo Zapata

Patronage, the Gallery Mannequin, & Social Media

Zapata’s unorthodox fashion additionally extends to social media. Whereas many artists stay firmly within the gallery mannequin, Zapata has determined to create inroads into social media websites akin to Instagram, the place he presently has near 40,000 followers – and thru which he has sometimes bought work to collectors. “I don’t have something towards galleries or the gallery mannequin,” he stated, laughing. “It’s a misinterpretation; in case you Google it, you possibly can discover a Zapata at perhaps sixty exhibits.” 

However the artist is adamant that the longer term lies prior to now; or within the case of the artwork world, patronage. Pointing on the giant overhead that many galleries and their artists should cope with – whether or not it’s from lease, employees measurement, delivery prices, and the like – Zapata notes that social media is offering a conduit between artists and collectors that merely didn’t exist a decade in the past. “In at this time’s world, with social media being such an enormous affect, greater than common media, everyone seems at Instagram, Twitter, Fb,” he says. “Now, you’ve got all these websites which deliver the collector and painter collectively, to allow them to begin their very own relationship. And that’s the place we’re going. I don’t assume these platforms are a condition-based mannequin; they’re a service mannequin, the place they’re introducing you to the variability; they put you proper in entrance of the supply. That’s the way it was finished 100 years in the past, and that’s the way it’s going to be for the subsequent hundred years.”

This, he agues, is a return to patronage; social media and web site customers can flick through the work of a variety of artists, discover an artist that fits them, and meet them in individual. As an alternative of going by means of a gallery, the place work are usually seen, the position is being taken by social media websites and extra polished, art-specific providers. And this, in flip, helps to deliver publicity to artists who in any other case may need hassle wending their means trough the gallery mannequin. “I feel it’s superb,” he says. “It provides a chance to these hundreds of artists to have an opportunity, even when they’re completely unknown. Expertise prevails.”

To that finish, Zapata expects that artists giant and small will ultimately shift to a type of digitally enhanced patronage, and he has each intention of being on the leading edge. Pointing to artists like Picasso and Michelangelo, who each benefited immensely from conventional patronage, he additionally discusses how artwork, a a lot older establishment than artwork galleries, thrived beneath that system. “The artwork world is forty thousand years of historical past, because the cavemen dipped their arms in blood and printed them on the cave to state ‘I exist, I’m right here.’ That’s the start of artwork, the start of the worldwide language that everybody can perceive.” Whereas a far cry from that age, social media, he says, is as soon as once more making the language of artwork accessible, each for collectors and artists alike.

Sky Polo by Domingo Zapato


Zapata’s want for accessibility in artwork is the focus, because it seems, in relation to philanthropy. Within the identify of sensible software, he helps innumerable charitable organizations, together with routinely creating or auctioning off his personal works for charitable foundations for hurricane aid, funding artwork packages for youngsters with impoverished backgrounds, collaborating in New York Trend week for charity, and elevating consciousness for artwork schooling. 

Even in New York, the place the artwork scene is alive and nicely, Zapata notes that 80% of public faculties shouldn’t have an artwork program anymore, regardless of greater charges in earlier years. “I consider that if we overlook artwork in schooling, then we might be elevating youngsters with out sensitivity, and people won’t be youngsters; they are going to be troopers,” he says. 

To counter this problem, Zapata has been closely concerned with Pope Francis, whom he has visited, painted with, and extra just lately, been appointed an envoy to the Scholas Occurentes program. As an envoy, Zapata will meet with the pope twice a yr and discusses learn how to additional profit this system, which unites low-income faculties collectively to enhance useful resource era and improve the standard of schooling for its college students. As an envoy, Zapata was additionally capable of attend a panel on the United Nations and converse concerning the significance of artwork and schooling on the current Latin American summit. 

Zapata’s motivations, nevertheless quite a few, come right down to a easy aim, nevertheless. “To me, proper now, I simply need to have the ability to categorical to as many individuals as attainable every little thing that speaks to my coronary heart; to have the ability to use my place, and that place of affect, to do murals and sculptures that are public, for individuals to take pleasure in; and to make use of it to boost funds for charities and causes that I consider are necessary; and in addition develop as an artist. I’m already within the system, the place I can just about say I’ll be doing this for the remainder of my life; God forbid that one thing fucked up occurs; however I’m a type of who’ve that chance, which have been given a lot. It’s my time to additionally give again, and on the similar time, develop as an artist, and maintain expressing myself. I don’t understand how or what’s subsequent, however I do know that I’ll battle like the primary day to maintain delivering emotions and a constructive power to anybody that’s aiming to take them from me.”

Wanting Ahead

However fifteen years is, Zapata hopes, simply scratching the floor; and although ceaselessly occupied by reveals, portray, and his personal actions, he by no means needs to be complacent. Indicating a distaste for being labeled, he takes inspiration from artists like Pablo Picasso, whose fashion modified dramatically all through his life. “I don’t need to be caught with description,” Zapata says decidedly. “I simply need to have the ability to do. You’ve gotten artists like Picasso who’ve confirmed themselves extraordinary by means of totally different types and totally different themes all through their complete life and profession. So in case you take a look at Picasso when he was twenty, it has nothing to do with him when he was fifty, or when he was seventy. And I feel that’s an instance to comply with. I can’t be doing the identical factor…I need to work in several themes and totally different types my complete profession, in order that I’m influenced by each second I’m alive.”

A part of undertaking that, Zapata says, is constant to do what he does greatest. “I’m not an artist to the celebs, I’m a painter,” he says merely. “I’ve the chance to color people who find themselves extraordinary; clearly, with some, I’m going to develop synergy or friendships with them. Some of the lovely issues about this work is that I get to know individuals, and I’m comfortable to have that chance.” 

Spring Purple Flowers Acrylic on Canvas by Domingo Zapata

And that chance, it appears, has enabled him to make use of his artistry to positively influence all that he meets – whether or not it’s a shopper personally visiting his studio, an aspiring artist who sees his work on social media, or a beneficiary of his philanthropy. Such interplay, he says, is what retains him really impressed.

“I consider on this world,” Zapata lastly says, taking within the final breath of the interview. “My shoppers are celebrities, and billionaires, and collectors; however they’re additionally youngsters in want, and charities, and everyone who walks by way of Brooklyn and sees my mural. That is my collector base. That is my job.” ​

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