By Judy Pokras
Women in colorful cocktail dresses — in the spirit of Romero Britto’s optimistic, playful artwork – and men in summery outfits came out to meet the artist himself at the Coral Springs Museum of Art’s annual signature “Masterpiece” event. Themed “Blame it on Rio,” the August 20 VIP party held in the summer, was set amidst an impressive exhibit of paintings, digital prints and sculptures by Britto, which the museum began hosting on June 6, and which ran through August 29.
Collector Steve Opler, an Honorary Council member of the museum, introduced Britto with an anecdote about how he first discovered the artist in a “little” art show in Miami in 1987. Referring to his wife, Bonnie (who is also an Honorary Council member), Opler said: “I said to Bonnie, ‘I think we have a new painting.’” In fact it was the first piece of art the Brazilian-born Britto ever sold in the U.S., a painting dramatically unveiled at the party.
As Britto stood at a podium and greeted a crowd of his fans, he said of the Oplers, “I’m very lucky to have them in my life.” The artist said that his next exhibit will be in St. Petersburg, Russia. “There’s going to be lots of vodka,” he quipped. He also invited everyone to “come to Lincoln Road” in Miami to see his work there.
The party included two Coral Springs Commissioners: Joy Carter, co-chair of the event, who said she loves the vibrancy and energy of Britto’s work; and Dan Daley, who said the exhibit is “probably one of the coolest things to ever come to Coral Springs”; and Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, a collector of Britto’s, who flipped through her smartphone to show a party guest photos of many Britto artworks she has displayed throughout her house.
Michael Monas, president of the museum’s board of directors, told me that in gearing up for the Masterpiece event, the board didn’t know if they could even find a date to hold it that would work with Britto’s busy schedule. Thanks to the Oplers, he said, a date was found, and the exhibit was put together in only three months.
I spotted one attendee, a young artist named Galen Todd (who was wearing paint-spattered jeans), crouching to take a picture of a bio of Britto on a museum wall. Todd, who has a studio residency at the Bailey Center for Contemporary Art in Pompano Beach, said that when he can hear an artist talk, it gives the back story of the painting, and a bit more insight. “Especially with an artist like Britto, who is a pop artist with work that is on the surface,” said Todd, adding that Britto’s work “goes great on luggage, boats, everything.” As an illustration of Todd’s point, some of the partygoers wore clothing or handbags bearing Britto’s artwork, some desserts rested on a table draped with Britto-designed fabric, and there was a handsome Britto-painted Corvette outside the entrance to the museum.
In addition to feasting on the art, partiers dined on such Rio-themed fare as Brazilian pulled-pork sandwiches, Mousse de Maracuja (passion fruit), and Caipirinha (the national cocktail of Brazil). The Rhumba Jazz Septet provided festive music, and, adding a dash of drama, were statuesque, feather-festooned dancers of the Paulo Gualano Samba Group, on hand to pose for photo ops.
Julia Andrews, executive director of the Coral Springs Museum of Art, who helped put the Britto exhibit together, said, “We’re very excited about the direction we’re taking the museum: introducing it to a younger audience, making it available for events, and celebrating a wonderful place for families, adults, and children.”