Demystifying Contemporary Art

Maria Brito
Sep 28, 2012 6:42PM
Enough Already, 2009
Paul Kasmin Gallery

As a designer who works with contemporary art, I choose and place artworks for my clients that make an entire room come together maybe even before I have acquired a single piece of furniture for a particular project. I see these collections of artwork as part of a narrative that helps each individual client tell their story through their home and art. I'm being hired to help my clients express who they are through a group of objects arranged in a particular way but mostly through art.

Having had the opportunity to work with a wide group of different people showed me how much almost everyone, top to bottom, had an enormous curiosity about and wished to live with contemporary art. But a lot of them were either too intimidated to even try, too busy to go to galleries or too afraid of being shut-out price-wise. It was quite shocking to know that many of my clients associated contemporary art with the million-dollar-price-tag or thought of it exclusively as a group of conceptual pieces that were intellectually hard to grasp, and basically impossible to live with. The lack of knowledge had been so pervasive that when I offered one of my clients to develop a collection comprised of Latin American emerging artists, she told me that she was not into "artisans"! She thought I wanted to put woven baskets on her walls! She had no idea of the strength, beauty, variety and "hotness" of contemporary art in Latin America despite being a top executive in a major corporation in New York. And no, I'm not judging her, I'm using a real life example to illustrate my point.

Why has this happened? Well, we can argue reasons for days, but I'm not sure the discussion is worth it in this entry. Why? Because with the advent of social media and websites like most myths around contemporary art have started to be dispelled. In the past two years, we have witnessed an extraordinary proliferation of websites that either inform and educate people or allow them to buy, with the click of a mouse, an excellent piece of contemporary art for a few thousand dollars.

Exactly one year ago I wrote an article about collecting art for Gwyneth Paltrow's website "Goop". I was thrilled to share many ideas about the topic in a straightforward way with her enormous reader base. A few weeks ago, I learned that Gwyneth told InStyle Magazine in its October 2012 edition, that my story was among her website's top 10 since the four years that Goop has existed. This flattering piece of information is only a reflection of what people want and need to hear, read and know about contemporary art: that it belongs to all of us, that is expanding beyond museums and galleries and that it tells a story - and maybe that story is the same or at least very close to mine, or yours.

Maria Brito