I met Maria Brito last year when she began working with and advising Kevin and I on our personal work and where to take it. We started doing artist studio tours together around Brooklyn – Maria has an amazing knowledge of the art world, not only in New York but around the world. Her blog and Instagram do a great job of taking you along for the ride! And in case that doesn’t sound chic enough, she covers art fairs like Basel for publications such as Elle; she was featured in Vogue Brazil; she buys art for P. Diddy’s (Sean Combs’) homes; she’s written a book about living with art; she’s a wife and a mother of two; and now, because she has soooooo much free time 😉 she is marrying her two passions, fashion and art, by launching a very limited edition capsule collection of clutches. These pieces feature three different artists – Kenny Scharf, Erik Parker and Carlos Rolón/Dzine – in editions of 20 exclusively at Kirna Zabete in SoHo and online. They are truly “wearable art”, pieces that will increase their value through time, and that are themselves timeless.
Below are a few questions I had for Maria about what she wants to do now, what other A-listers are on her client roster, and her thoughts on how to buy art…
So these clutches are amazing! Where did you get the idea for them?
“I had been looking at the idea of doing product. I wrote a book, I do design services, I post things on my blog, so I thought it was about time to do something else. I had been looking at art collaborations, and while I thought some of them were very cool, I realized I wouldn’t necessarily wear what’s available right now. I wanted to create something that my friends or my clients or that I would actually wear, so I came to the idea of doing these clutches. I emailed a few artist friends about the idea to validate that the prototypes were going to work, and they all said, Yes. And the beautiful thing is that in the end, it worked out. So really it came as a natural progression of what I do.”
So tell me about each of the three pieces of art…
“The zebra print one is by Dzine, his name is Carlos Rolón, he’s an artist who’s based in Chicago. He’s from a Puerto Rican background, so we connect really well because we’re both Latin. This was a piece made for a show that was at Paul Kasmin at the beginning of the year. I took a detail, because it’s a big square, so I had to crop it so it would work for this shape…I feel it works really well for this type of thing.
The white clutch is from Erik Parker. The original is a diptych – it is actually hanging in the house of one of my clients. It’s huge – 6 feet in height by probably 9 feet in length. It’s separate because it’s a diptych, so I decided to play with it and put it together. It worked out really well! This one came full circle because it’s in the house of my client and now…well, you know what I mean.
And the Kenny Scharf one came from a piece that he did in the 90s. It’s also a detail. He’s very known for doing those creatures and little animals, so of course he told me, “Choose one in my archive of 600,” and it was kind of hard. I mean, it’s not that it was hard, having 600 pieces to choose from, but I wanted in particular to have the little creatures! I loved how this turned out to be. It’s very playful.”
What’s the estimated value for the original pieces of art?
“This Erik Parker? It’s probably around $75,000. The Kenny? Maybe $250,000, $300,000. And this, the Dzine zebra, about $45,000. But what’s amazing is you can have this, signed by the artist, limited edition.”
Do you think you’ll do another capsule collection?
“I’m not an accessories or fashion designer, so I don’t want to confuse my roles in life. It’s very difficult to do fashion and accessories, so I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not. But I think these clutches are very timeless – it’s not seasonal fashion. They are pieces of art themselves. We use the same printing products and facilities that print for the major museums. That means that it has this quality that can really hold up over time. The colors cure and intensify over time. It’s a piece of fine art, if you treat it nicely it will last forever. And this is the contemporary art of our time.
What I like about them is that they are all optimistic looking. These artists are all people who are looking forward to seeing beautiful things happening in the future or in the present. There’s not a lot of drama here.”
How would you define yourself personally?
“I’m an art curator and designer. That is the cohesive title. If you think about it existing under one roof – you have design in the space and then you have art on the walls, and it all has a dialogue. It all comes together to tell your story. So I’d like to be someone who designs spaces that are art-centric. But that doesn’t mean I am only narrowed in that kind of thing – I work with art and artists because I feel there is so much you can tell and the story is so compelling when you hear about the concept and the ideas the artists want to express through art. So I feel that I have a lot in my life to say for me and my clients that has to be expressed through art.
I’ve worked with Sean Combs, I’ve worked with Gwyneth Paltrow, with Tracy Anderson, and a bunch of hedge funders, whose careers and lives are very intense, so they don’t have time to do these things on their own. They need somebody who can help them identify their loves and passions and put it all together, hanging on the walls; design spaces for them that are practical but at the same time, warm and inviting and colorful. It’s not one thing. I don’t want my clients to ever come to me and say, I just have this very specific idea. People are so layered! If someone comes to me and they say, I’m so minimal, I just want one painting and one bench in the middle, well, they cannot work with me.”
Why do you love art?
“It’s really culturally relevant! It’s very important. It stays for longer than anything else if you know what you’re doing. It does have that transcendence that is important. If you follow the advice of somebody like me, or you know what you’re doing, you can pass these things on to future generations. Your art collection can outlive you, and be a reflection of you and your time. Nothing is going to tell people the story of our time better than art. Yes, we will have Instagram pictures and archives and things like that, but they won’t be hanging on museum walls. That’s why I think it’s so important for people to connect with art, because it tells a story that nobody else, and nothing else, can do. The combination of what you have on your walls tells so much about you, it’s the narrative of your life.”
What’s the best place, in your opinion, for people to immerse themselves in art?
“Oh, I definitely think if people are in New York, they should walk through the Chelsea galleries one afternoon, and try the Lower East Side and the Village. And if they are not in New York, they are fucked! Just kidding. I think people should go to websites like artsy, and artnet, and artspace.com. I think it’s a very good introduction, a way to familiarize themselves with art and artists and prices. And people have local galleries all over the world. It’s a start. It’s not just New York. It’s about finding where you should go.”