While selling at a fine art show in Beverly Hills, CA, renowned pop artist Nelson De La Nuez, who is no stranger to celebrity clientele, had no idea that the ending to this meeting with the iconic pop star Michael Jackson would turn out so tragically. Mr. Jackson was initially drawn to the artist’s striking painting of the “Wicked Witch” from the Wizard of Oz film. De La Nuez noticed Jackson was mesmerized by the painting, at which time his bodyguard inquired as to the price and said he wanted to purchase the painting. It wasn’t until the next day when Mr. Jackson, umbrella and two children in tow, appeared once again right in the middle of all of the artist’s artwork. He looked around as if in a candy store and spoke to De La Nuez in a very quiet, gentle voice asking if he was the artist. His words were barely discernable beneath the mask covering his mouth, but he asked the name of the “Donut Queen” and said he wanted it. He was impressed with the colors and the vibrant images and began to point at the pieces he wanted to buy. He told his bodyguards and they photographed the art with a cell phone as he pointed to document the ones he wanted.
Michael Jackson was transfixed by the pop artist’s work because it resembled his own life and persona. It is fun, whimsical, nostalgic, childlike and vibrant with a touch of underlying mystery. The other two pieces he bought were titled; “Donut Queen,” a pop surreal painting which features a woman with porcelain skin resembling a doll, surrounded by donuts, some surreal-like melting around her and a milkman beside her while angels place a crown on her head and the nostalgic baseball piece, “Play Ball!,” which is an original hand painted piece that pays homage to all of the baseball classics. De La Nuez is a Warner Bros. 70th Anniversary Wizard of Oz film artist and the “Wicked Witch” is one of the exclusive paintings that is part of that anniversary series. Unfortunately, before Michael got to see the rest of the artwork, the paparazzi, the public and a news crew found him. He retreated from the area and the artist was left feeling like he was just touched by greatness and then he vanished into thin air. Michael Jackson’s last words to Mr. De La Nuez were, “God Bless You,” while he flashed him the peace sign he is known for.
The transaction was finalized on June 11 and the artwork was personally delivered to his home shortly before his death. Mr. Jackson became so obsessed with the “Wicked Witch” painting that his assistant told Mr. De La Nuez that he had to have that one immediately and they were willing to come get it as soon as possible. They told him Mr. Jackson literally asked about the “Wicked Witch” painting daily.
After a wire transaction was completed, the artist and his assistant drove over to the Holmby Hills home on June 15th as arranged to deliver the art. He had hoped to get a photo with Mr. Jackson and the art and had tried to pre-arrange it. As he approached the grand gates with paparazzi lining the streets, photographers took a photo of his vehicle for no apparent reason. He noticed Christmas wreaths still on the gates and remembers Christmas music in the air as well, coming through a speaker…time stood still at Michael Jackson’s house. The gates opened and shut behind him and suddenly, there was security as tight as the White House. Jackson’s young son with long hair was playing in the “yard” and stopped to check out the person arriving at his palatial home. He didn’t seem to care much and went about his way. Men dressed neatly in perfect black suits and the CIA looking earpiece in each ear guided the artist where to park directly in front of the door. He was warmly greeted by the security/staff, whom he had previously dealt with and helped bring the artwork into the entryway of the stately home.
He was informed that Michael was not home and, therefore, could not take a photo that day. The artist showed another painting he brought with him to Jackson’s “right-hand man” and he said he believed Mr. Jackson would want to buy it also. He inquired, at that point if Mr. De La Nuez could shut down De La Nuez Studios so Mr. Jackson could privately visit, because in his words, when “Mr. Jackson likes something, he really takes a liking to it and wants to see a lot more.” He thought it was in the artist’s best interest to have Michael come to his studio and of course, De La Nuez was ecstatic to make that happen. He could go on the internet to http://www.popcultureart.com, but Jackson wanted to see the lively colors painted on the art in person. The artist also had three smaller pieces of hand painted art for Jackson’s children that would be ready the following week and they discussed bringing back the three pieces the next week and possibly getting a photo then. “We all thought there was plenty of time to return, build a relationship, have him come to the studio, get pictures, there was no rush. I knew he loved my art and that was enough for now…who ever thought he would die? It’s just tragic,” says De La Nuez.
Nelson De La Nuez is known in his circles as the “King of Pop Art,” so it was fitting that the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson, would buy art from him. De La Nuez was always a huge Jackson fan, even as a small child. He was one of the people on his list that he wanted to meet in his lifetime and considers himself lucky that he met him when he did. “I am honored that one of Michael’s last big purchases was my artwork and I only hope that for the short time he owned it, the art brought a smile to his face. Michael Jackson contributed so much to the world with his music. He was the soundtrack to my life. I am so happy to have brought some joy to his life through my creativity,” says the artist.
De La Nuez concludes by saying, “My life has been changed forever. You can’t meet someone like that… an enigma, a piece of history, an idol and not be changed. The saddest part is that Michael Jackson had just started a “relationship” with my art and myself and who knows what would have come of it? Now we’ll never know, but I consider myself lucky for having the brief time I had to meet a legend and hang my paintings on his walls.”
Nelson De La Nuez’s artwork is collected by many well known people and celebrities in the entertainment industry and has been featured on countless television shows, including: VH1: Fabulous Life of: “The Latest in Billionaire Home Decor,” MTV “Cribs,” HGTV “Designer’s Challenge.” For interested galleries or buyers to purchase editions/artwork, contact Stacy Bell at 805-583-5060 or see http://www.popcultureart.com