Brazil-born pop artist Romero Britto is holding a solo show in Seoul for the first time at Opera Gallery, Cheongdam-dong.
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
The bright colors and fanciful Pop Art imagery in Romero Britto's artwork has made people all over the world smile, like the quirky ``Big Apple" sculpture at JFK International Airport, New York, or his many fun sculptures found around Miami.
``The success of my art is that people see happiness in it. It doesn't matter where you come from, what you believe in, because when you wake up in the morning, you want to be happy," Britto said in a press conference at Opera Gallery, Cheongdam-dong, Thursday.
The Miami-based artist was in town for the opening of ``Britto in Seoul," a special exhibition for Opera Gallery's second anniversary.
``I'm really happy to be here. I was born in Brazil but I wanted to show my art to so many people in the world. I know Koreans love colors, they have a great sense of style, and I think my art can be part of their everyday lives," he said.
Born in 1963, Britto grew up with eight brothers and sisters in Recife, Brazil. His childhood was chaotic, and he found escape through school.
``Going to school for me was very peaceful. I loved going to school to learn and that's how I thought I was going to change my life. There was a point when I wanted to be a diplomat. I went to a private school on scholarship. It was a most exciting experience and I dreamt of traveling the world," he said.
``Beautiful Day" by Romero Britto is one of the works on display at the ``Britto in Seoul" exhibition at Opera Gallery, Cheongdam-dong. / Courtesy of Opera Gallery.
However, realizing that being a diplomat was not for him, Britto decided to focus on his art. He moved to Miami to set up a studio, attracting attention with his unusual art.
The turning point came in 1989 when Absolut Vodka asked him to design an artwork featuring their famous logo. Britto joined the ranks of Pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Keith Haring who have contributed works for past Absolut ad campaigns.
Since then, Britto's works have gained popularity all over the world. He was the first artist to make a sculpture for Hyde Park, and in December 2008 he held an exhibition at the Salle de Notre in the Louvre Museum, Paris. In Seoul, two of his sculptures can be found at the Heungkuk Life Insurance Building, Gwanghwamun.
His vivid, colorful art has been described by the New York Times as ``Matisse channeling Picasso." When he's making a painting, Britto says ``it is all about the magical moment when the colors and everything come together."
Another distinctive feature of his art is the hope and positive energy it gives. Britto said Daniel Shapiro, a Harvard expert on conflict resolution, suggested his artwork could be used for "healing" in conflict-ridden areas.
``When I started doing my paintings, it was because I loved what I do. But as I kept doing my art, more people started telling me that they feel good about my art wherever I show it. Shapiro told me, 'Romero, your work can be used in helping kids who are traumatized by conflicts.' I've always wanted to express myself in a very positive way through my art, and I've been very lucky that so many people in the world want the same thing that I do," Britto said.
Wearing a lime green jacket, the 46-year-old artist said that while he is generally a positive person, his ``happy" pieces of work are not necessarily an accurate reflection of who he is as a person.
``I'm a very optimistic person. I'm a dreamer, but I'm not all the time like my work. My work is what I want my life to be. But my life is not exactly like my work is. But I guess it's my goal. I'm working on that every day. When I start a painting, that's what I want my life to be like ― colorful, happy and everything great," he smiled.
But his wardrobe does reflect his penchant for lively colors. ``My closet is like a rainbow," Britto laughed, as he revealed the colorful print lining of his jacket.
Britto has also been involved in charity work, even establishing his own foundation to help young people achieve their goals.
``I do believe that we should empower the young generation of the future. I can identify with the kids, their suffering and being disadvantaged. I would like to be able to do something good and help people, especially since I have had so many opportunities in my life that I never dreamed of," he said.
The Britto in Seoul exhibition runs through Dec. 6 at Opera Gallery, located on the first floor of Nature Poem Building, Cheongdam-dong. Visit www.operagallery.com or call (02) 3446-0070.