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P. Diddy’s Art Teacher
Maria Brito is also a collector herself and has partnered with artists
Entertainment 17 Nov 2017

New York-based art advisor and self-proclaimed “luxury lifestyle consultant” Maria Brito about finding art stars for the stars.

It’s 11 a.m. at New York’s Soho House and Maria Brito is wearing sequin leggings. Reflective clothing before noon is, generally speaking, a don’t, but teamed with wedge sneakers and a megawatt smile, Brito somehow manages to make it look cool and easy–approachable even. She’s been awake since five, has already done a morning workout and is now nibbling on a pastry. I, having woken up about two hours ago, order a café Americano. She refuses to let me pay.
Born in Venezuela, Brito has a degree from Harvard Law and spent a decade toiling as a corporate lawyer before finally pursuing her passion as an art advisor and interior decorator. And it’s a very good thing she did, because she’s basically responsible for getting P. Diddy into contemporary art. She’s also consulted the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and fitness guru Tracy Anderson, as well as a host of non-famous collectors.
Brito is also a collector herself and has partnered with artists, like Nir Hod, Katherine Bernhardt and Kenny Scharf on a series of drool-worthy limited edition handbags that put your average art/fashion collabs to shame. She’s also an author, curator and party circuit staple. And did I mention she’s gorgeous, down-to-earth and charismatic? Some people truly seem to have more hours in the day. Perhaps it’s the 5 a.m. wakeup call.

011Female Style_theartgorgeous
A lot of your clients are celebrities, and in the past few years there has been an unprecedented level of interest in the art world from entertainers. Can you talk a bit about that?

I think people in the entertainment industry have always felt really inspired by art and artists. In a way, it’s funny, because I think they consider [visual artists] to be true artists. Not everybody, but in a way, the respect that entertainers feel for visual artists is much higher than what they feel for their own peers. They look up to visual artists in a very different way.

Why do you think that is?
Well, creative people in that world many times are insecure or many feel–and this is not for everybody who is creative or successful–but they feel like a hoax at some point, because its just normal for human beings to have feelings like “oh, I don’t know if I deserve this success” and things like that. So the craft of an artist–someone like Leonardo da Vinci who has been in the Louvre for hundreds of years–is a lot more legacy than an album. 500 years ago, we didn’t have music that travelled places, so we’re still really in our infancy to see what the legacy of music and pop or movies will be.

I think people in the entertainment industry have always felt really inspired by art and artists. In a way, it’s funny, because I think they consider visual artists to be true artists

033Female Style_theartgorgeous
Do you find that working with celebrities is different from working with your other clients?

Yes, definitely. It can be very complex. There is more scrutiny. You have to go through a lot of levels of scrutiny. And once you’re in those circles–not as a friend but as someone who is there to provide a service to them–you automatically put yourself out there in front of a lot of other things. It’s almost like your every move is being watched–not that I have anything to hide, but what I’m saying is, it’s a temporary invitation into a kind of lifestyle that is not my lifestyle.

I feel like the art world can also be really weird about celebrities, which is always surprising to me.
I think that if somebody like Leonardo DiCaprio buys works from your gallery, it’s a press token that you can use for a little bit, but that’s it, right? I mean, how long can you use that? Hollywood and celebrity culture is utterly mystifying. It’s one of the best inventions of America. But it’s also the reason Donald Trump is president. The media is so powerful–social media and the media. You have sufficient ammunition to get your message to the world if you have been on TV for a long time and you also have an enormous following on social media. You have such a huge leg up. And that doesn’t happen anywhere else. The culture of celebrity in this country is unheard of anywhere else.

04Female Style_theartgorgeous

Art by Mickalene Thomas in Brito’s master bedroom; Close-ups of Brito’s stylish Chelsea apartment; Maria Brito’s collection of wearable art clutches

Is there a piece that you’ve considered buying for yourself and didn’t that now haunts you?
Oh yeah, everyday. I think the list is too long. The majority of the things that we have, my husband and I, I bought without telling him, which is horrible, but you know… And then I hang it on the wall, and he’s like, “what’s that”? He tells me, “Do you think that I’m so silly that I don’t know you hung it?”

So you also have a handbag line, yes?
Yes! It’s collaborations with artists. I was looking at a lot of the col-laborations with artists and brands and for some reason, I was never 100% satisfied. Certain things can be incredibly amazing, but they become very expensive. Like the Tracey Emin/Stephen Sprouse partnership last year on all that jewelry, the earrings were diamond and they were like 5,000 bucks! It’s not really reachable.
Some of the collaborations between artists and bigger brands fail because the artist is so far removed from the creative centre, and then when it comes out, it just doesn’t represent them any more. You’re also always kind of playing with the fine line of who you want your customer to be. I’m not really into doing things that are cheap, but you also don’t want to go so high that nobody can afford it.

Because in creative industries, we’re not operating brains, we’re not investing people’s money in the stock market–I think if you wanna show your ass, show your ass, if you wanna not show it, don’t

Maria Brito shows off her new handbag collaboration with three contempary artists as wearable art.
Which artists have you worked with so far and who would you like to work with in the future?
I partnered with Katherine [Bernhardt] and Natalie Frank and Trudy Benson and assume vivid astro focus. The first three were Kenny Scharf, Eric Parker and Carlos Rolon. And most recently, Nir Hod. Everything is different, because I did acrylic and then I did suede and necklaces and things like that, and then leather. Everything is actually made in New York, because I wanted to have a lot of creative control. I wanted to keep it limited edition–each one is only 5,000 units–and small and manageable. Definitely we’ll do more, but I want to do it on my time. If you want to work with fashion people, you have to put out three collections a year and it’s too much. It’s impossible! It’s not for a business of my scale and size. I would have to have another Maria.

Are there any young, up-and-coming female artists you’re watching right now?
There are many, but what is up-and-coming? Is she 18? We’re going so fast. Whoever is 40, which is young and is supposed to be a time when you’re flourishing, is already old. But I have met so many girls–Nina Abney, Caitlin Keogh, Mira Dancy–I have seen their work for so long, but they’re still young. Trudy Benson is fantastic and she’s still very young, Jamian Juliano-Villani is great, she’s so young. It’s a funny thing–when you turn 40, you’re done.
I think it’s very important for women in any industry, but partic-ularly the art world, to really do whatever the fuck they want. Because in creative industries, we’re not operating brains, we’re not investing people’s money in the stock market–I think if you wanna show your ass, show your ass, if you wanna not show it, don’t. It is important to fight for that kind of freedom, because I’m not an artist but I want to do whatever I want to do, and if someone’s gonna pay for it, even better. We should not be, in general, afraid of coming forward with a message. Sexuality, ideas, things that are for the greater good–I don’t think anyone should be afraid of these things at any age.

How would you describe your sense of style in one sentence?
I like to make a statement. I think it’s all about self-expression–making a statement and expressing myself. I think fashion is wonderful as an art form.

055Female Style_theartgorgeous
So, you started out as a corporate lawyer, right? What advice would you give to young women who want to make the transition from something like that to doing something more creative?
Well, I think the sooner the better. But it has to be a calculated risk. It’s important to have clarity and to have a real business plan. Not 700 pages of spreadsheets, but when you actually get into the trouble and exercise of having to write down how the business is going to support itself in the next 12 months, you are actually going to discover a lot of things. It’s so crucial. And it’s going to change and evolve and there are things that are not going to happen, but still.

What interior design tips would you give to young women who love art and design but might not have the money yet to really invest in things?
I think they should go to all the amazing websites, like ArtStar, which is owned by Chrissy Crawford, who is a great girl. I was actually browsing there for stuff yesterday, and they have a lot of fun, limited-edition prints, which are beautiful. And Artspace, and there are a couple of other websites where you can find a really great aggregation of stuff. Because places like the Lower East Side are becoming so expensive. It used to be like you could find some bargains, but now everything is like, above $20,000. Which is bargain for someone, but not a young woman just putting stuff together. I find it really beautiful when people just do a gallery-style wall with lots of prints and drawings and editions and photography. I have also always been a huge proponent of the massive statement piece, but that might not always be feasible, and I think its equally valid to have a beautiful, gallery-style wall that you can keep adding to.

This Feature Got Published in TheArtGorgeous Magazine#1 to Download e-version click here

Photos via Maria Brito

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