Meet María Brito, the art advisor celebrities have on speed dial
Soho House chats to the curator about her unconventional journey into the industry and her debut book
Tuesday 5 April 2022 By Salomé Gómez-Upegui
Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, María Brito was rarely allowed to break the rules. She was expected to do well in school and pursue a traditional career path. And though she once had a dream of becoming a professional singer, her parents were elated when she chose a legal career instead, and thrilled when she was accepted into Harvard Law School to pursue graduate studies. Neither Brito nor her family imagined that her path would be a one-way trip to the United States, where she would end up devoting her life to an entirely different career.
In her new book, How Creativity Rules The World: The Art And Business Of Turning Your Ideas Into Gold, the renowned art advisor, curator, and now author draws on her personal experience as an industry outsider-turned-expert to teach readers how to cultivate creativity. ‘You possess a never-ending and always-renewable source you can use to make money, reinvent yourself, pivot your business, or create products or services that your clients will love and will keep them coming back. It’s called creativity,’ Brito writes.
Over the past 13 years, she has built a wildly successful seven-figure art advisory business, working with numerous high-profile clients such as Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and Gwyneth Paltrow. She defines creativity as ‘the use of old or known information to create something new and relevant,’ and believes that everyone is capable of using this skill set to attain greater life satisfaction.
After graduating from Harvard, Brito spent nine years as a corporate attorney in various New York City-based firms. Yet, she often felt she was in the wrong place. This feeling grew stronger in 2008 after she took maternity leave and dreaded the idea of returning to work. ‘I remember thinking to myself, do I want to be a happy, fulfilled person, or do I want to be at the mercy of all of these other people who are building their businesses and doing something I don’t really like?’ she recently told Soho House over Zoom.
Back then, Brito already had a life-long love affair with the art world as an avid collector who grew up surrounded by creativity. She often reminisces about her grandfather, a devoted collector of ‘all sorts of things’ and a painter in his spare time. And she speaks lovingly about her father, who was adamant about incorporating art and culture into her upbringing, often taking her to museums and galleries.
No matter her passion for the subject, many warned Brito the art world was too difficult, suggesting the industry wouldn’t be welcoming and doors would be slammed in her face. Even so, she decided to confirm this for herself. ‘Ever since I quit being a lawyer, I’ve wanted to do things differently and do them my way,’ she says. A few months after leaving her legal career, she began working as an art advisor and eventually found the warnings she had received didn’t apply. ‘People should know [the art world] is not difficult, or complicated, or strange. They should be able to demystify the sacred sanctity of the art world,’ she adds.
Due to her unorthodox background, Brito didn’t feel compelled to follow rules she didn’t know. ‘I always say that outsiders are the best disruptors,’ she explains. ‘I had no idea where I was going to find my first client, but I saw this blank slate as an opportunity because I didn’t come to the industry with preconceived notions.’
Despite her undeniable success, Brito is quick to accept she’s no stranger to dealing with impostor syndrome, though she reframes the idea in a novel way. ‘I think very smart people have it because they’re always questioning and looking around – not for comparison – but to see if they could be doing things better,’ she explains.
Brito is certain everyone has the ability to bring novel and unique ideas to life since no two human beings are alike. The problem is confidence, developing the ability to trust those ideas, and this is precisely one of the main teachings she hopes readers take away from her book. ‘Confidence is important, it’s what allows great work to be put out into the world. I hope [readers] claim creativity for themselves and don’t let anything or anyone take that away from them,’ she says.