The Real Deal New York

Domingo Zapata’s landlord sues him for allegedly trashing Gramercy Park pad

Celebrity artist calls lawsuit "unfair"
By Katherine Clarke | January 12, 2016 05:51PM

Hotshot artist Domingo Zapata is being accused by his ex-landlord of expressing himself a little too freely.

Zapata allegedly wreaked havoc on his former Gramercy Park South townhouse to the tune of $200,000, according to a new lawsuit brought by Carolyn Benitez, who owns the property.

The landlord is accusing Zapata, a Spanish artist whose patrons include Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio, of damaging the ceilings and floors of her home, destroying the plumbing, damaging antique art, and even allowing the home to become infested with bugs.

The 8,600-square-foot pad, which comprises the first three floors of a 19th-century townhouse at 11 Gramercy Park South, featured standing Medieval suits of armor and patterned Louis XIV wall paneling, as well as hoards of Zapata’s own large-scale and brightly colored paintings. The artist used the second floor ballroom as a studio.

Benitez, who is married to music producer Jellybean Benitez and owns Union Square Coffee Shop, claims that Zapata owes her $199,317 to cover the repairs as well as $15,000 in attorney fees, according to the suit, filed Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court.

Zapata, who lived at the property for several years starting in May 2013, called the lawsuit “unfair.”

“That’s an outrageous amount of money,” he said of the $200,000 claim. “I’ve tried to offer a reasonable amount — $50,000 or $60,000 — but she doesn’t want that. If the damage was really so bad, would she have been able to lease it to a friend of mine just a few weeks after I left?”

Zapata had been open about his propensity for customizing the home in his own unique way, drawing murals on the walls and ceilings.

“It’s my head, it’s my mind,” he told The Real Deal of the property in 2014. “If you could make a hole in my brain and look at it, you would see this.”

Zapata famously hosted star-studded soirées at the property, with guests including Sofia Vergara, Salman Rushdie and Lindsay Lohan.