As an art advisor who has worked with such high-profile clients as Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Gwyneth Paltrow, Maria Brito is used to jetting around the world in pursuit of the biggest of big-game artworks to fill the walls of celebrity homes. But, as we discover in her lavish new collecting guide, Out There: Design, Art, Travel, Shopping (Pointed Leaf Press), she is also adept at matching more accessible artworks to the smallest and most intimate of settings: the children's room.
Having grown up in Caracas, Venuzuela, in an art-collecting family—her grandfather was a weekend painter, and her parents knew the great Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto—Brito was deeply influenced from a young age by the vibrant art of Latin America that filled her home. Today, as the mother of two young sons, Daniel and Oliver, she is passing on that valuable experience by filling their room with dazzling yet friendly works by some of the most cutting-edge artists working today.
To learn about how to curate such a delicate setting, we spoke to Brito about how to wisely invest in art that—unlike school clothes—children won't outgrow, and which can enrich their youthful sensibilities.
With artworks being pricier than your average poster, why should kids have artworks in their rooms?
Well, I'm not advocating placing a Basquiat in the kids' bedroom. I think that there are lots of excellent limited-edition prints, photographs, and unique works by emerging artists whose prices are quite reasonable. I also think that a child who has the privilege to start his or her own collection at such an early age—with the help of his or her parents, of course—will develop a sensibility, an eye, and a special perspective on life that is ahead of the curve.
In your book you write that, having come of age surrounded by the vividly-hued art of Latin America, "color has inspired my life." How much of a role does color play in your choice of artworks for a child's room?
It's the determining factor! Being a child is a finite experience, and one that ideally should be positive, happy, optimistic, and uplifting. In a child's room there's no better way to accomplish this than to add colorful and happy art.
When spending money to buy a work of art to live in a child's room, the piece needs to suit both the tastes of the kid and the parent—after all, it's a place where mom and dad will be spending considerable time as well. How do you balance those two constituencies in choosing an artwork?
In many instances, the decisions are made by the parents and then the children have veto power over the parents' selections. Balance is usually attained in those extraordinary situations when a blue-chip artist releases a limited-edition print that suits the child's bedroom decor and which is an unmissable opportunity due to the reasonable price of the piece. Then the parents usually get so excited that they convince the kids.
As any who has tried to dress or feed a child knows, children make for a surprisingly opinionated and discriminating audience. What kinds of artworks reliably pleaser?
Colorful Pop-inspired prints are definitely a favorite of many children.
What are some of the difficulties you've encountered while curating children's rooms for your clients?
Sometimes I'm thinking way ahead of what people can take or live with. Families that have girls usually insist on girly artworks with a lot of pink, and I honestly have a hard time finding pieces that have an aesthetic, emotional, and intellectual value and also fulfill those requirements.
You say in your book that some of the artists that you think about when you remember your childhood are Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and Tom Wesselmann. What is it about their work that makes it stand out so clearly in your memory?
I was born in the '70s, and growing up in the '80s in Caracas we used to go to a lot of art shows that were quite abundant back then. The trend was mostly toward kinetics and Op art, but I was mostly drawn to Pop and street art. Then I came to New York City for the first time when I was seven or eight and I fell in love with MoMA and with the culture of the '80s—and the gritty streets of New York, with filthy subway stations that had Keith Haring drawings on the walls. When you have an experience like that when you're so young, it stays with you forever.
Who are some artists today whose work is especially suitable to a child's room?
What was your first significant art experience that you can remember?
I was aware that both my parents and grandparents loved to live with art and to talk about artists and the pieces on the walls and the sculptures. When I was little, my grandparents had a piece by [great Venezuelan outsider artist] Armando Reveron that occupied an entire wall—it was pretty shocking. Many, many years after, I stumbled upon a very similar piece at MoMA, and it only brought fond memories to my mind.
How did growing up with art help shape the person you are today?
Well, nowadays art is such an integral part of my life that it's in everything I do. I also think that it gave me the confidence to talk about and appreciate art, and hang out with art-world people without ever being intimidated. I also think that I learned that an experience with contemporary art—either as a collector or as a spectator—should be fun and pleasurable, not an ordeal or a scary episode. I believe my personal collection is so engaging and thought-provoking that I could live without my furniture but not without my art.
How does your children's taste in art differ from that of your celebrity clients, and how is it similar?
I think there are more similarities than differences. Every parent wants his or her kids to be happy and to be surrounded by pleasant, stimulating, and optimistic art, and so do I—when it comes to both my kids and my clients.