Romero Britto On Transcending The World Of Fine Art to Expand His Massive Empire

Nestled on a side street in Midtown Miami among parking lots and other mundane structures is an ordinary, rather large industrial building, but it is not ordinary at all. In fact, it is extraordinary: it is the BRITTO Palace.

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia

When the discreet front door opens, you enter the wonderful world of internationally acclaimed artist Romero Britto. The red carpet is rolled out, his vibrant artworks fill the space, and magic can be found in every corner. There is no denying that Britto knows how to make an impression. “I was so inspired by Versailles — the place is so majestic and spectacular with all its rooms,” he says. The BRITTO Palace, home of almost 100 employees, is the headquarters of the BRITTO® and ROMERO BRITTO Fine Art brands as well as the atelier the artist goes just about every day to create and inspire.

As you walk through the vast hallways, photographs of the many lives Britto has touched, from former presidents, religious leaders, billionaires, celebrities and famed athletes like Tom Brady, Michael Jordan and Roger Federer to members of the British royal family, grace the walls, each one leaving you in more awe than the last.

Perhaps it is Britto’s connection to the British royals that inspired him to create this modern-day palace fit for a king. Britto first met HRH Prince Charles in 2007 at the opening of Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at the O2 Bubble, where he designed an original hand-painted 45-foot-tall pyramid, becoming the largest installation in Hyde Park. Today, Britto has become an active board member of the Prince’s Trust, founded by Prince Charles, and has done various portraits of royal family members, including the HM Queen ELizabeth II, for more than ten years.

Here, at his own palace inaugurated last year, Britto has already welcomed famed guests like Andrea Bocelli, DJ Khaled, HRH Princess Madeleine of Sweden, the Bush Family, and even the Buffetts — the impressive list of his collectors goes on. However, not just anyone can enter the Palace; each guest must receive an exclusive Golden Ticket as their official invitation. Because the space is not open to the public, the BRITTO Golden Ticket has become a prized possession of the Palace that can even appear in BRITTO® products and fine art shipped to millions of consumers as a surprise opportunity to visit. The place is so magical that it has even had the flag of the United States of America flown this July 26th over the US Capitol in celebration of its grand opening and in honor of Romero Britto.

Dr. Lucas Vidal, global CEO of the BRITTO Group, BRITTO® brand and ROMERO BRITTO Fine Art, appointed in February 2020, points to a framed photo hanging on the wall behind him, “As you see here, Britto was good friends with Michael Jackson. We thought about doing an exclusive ticket as a way to pay tribute to Michael Jackson [combined] with the story of Willy Wonka, who is a great personality in cinema, and both of them are sources of inspiration to Britto. This is such a special place.” Michael Jackson was indeed someone who Britto will forever admire. “I was struck by him,” he says. Jackson actually hosted a party for Britto in Neverland, and Britto implemented the Golden Ticket as a nod to Jackson’s influence.

It’s Britto’s deep relationships that have not only continued to impact his work but also have helped transcend his art into a thriving global lifestyle brand. Spanning over 60,000 square feet as the largest art studio in the world, the BRITTO Palace serves as a metaphor for Britto’s dynamic evolution as an artist and entrepreneur.

Since Britto was a child, he fostered an undying love for art. “I never knew that I would be doing what I do today,” he reflects. “I thought I would have a job and maybe be a painter over the weekend or in the evenings. I viewed art as more of a hobby.” He actually wanted to be a diplomatic ambassador of Brazil, but when he was in law school, he realized that would not fulfill him. “I quit the idea of being a diplomat,” he says with a shy smile. “[I thought to myself], maybe I should dive into this thing called art.”

For the last 30 years, Britto has expanded his empire into a dynamic portfolio of companies within the BRITTO Group: real estate, licensing, retail stores, fine art, consumer goods, food and beverage, hospitality and entertainment—totaling over $250 million. He has also become the most licensed artist in history, with over $4 billion in retail revenue since BRITTO® Licensing was established. This expansion prompts the question of how Britto has been able to evolve his work into such a successful business.

“It’s been an evolution,” says Britto. “I’ve always been interested in a larger audience. Many artists just want to have their works displayed in museums, but I believe that art is too important not to share and can have a positive impact on people’s lives. My art is all about happiness, hope and love. I did several large art projects, like the opening ceremony of Super Bowl XLI, the Grammys, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, FIFA World Cup, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and the Olympics.”

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia

But it’s not just Britto building the fun lifestyle brand.

With Dr. Lucas Vidal as the CEO and Britto’s right-hand man, the BRITTO® brand is rapidly expanding as Vidal amplifies the ideas and creativity behind Britto’s iconic art and brings them to life beyond the canvas, especially through high quality consumer goods with an innovative design. “In 2020 the focus was on brand repositioning, rebranding, product development and on creating a completely new e-commerce platform for both products and fine art – Shopbritto.com (which we have already seen an increase in over 600% revenue in a year). Now our focus is on opening 300 BRITTO® retail stores in the next 5 years, on expanding to Asia and Middle East our fine art program that counts today with more than 215 global gallery partners and on collaborating with strategic brands. Britto is far from being just a visual artist, he has transcended the arts world. BRITTO® is a fun global brand with incredible longevity and with a beautiful mission of inspiring happiness and sharing an art that relates to all. It is totally unique and the potential is unlimited” adds Dr. Vidal.

As Britto’s best friend for almost seven years, Vidal has been able to approach the brand with not just a fresh perspective but a genuine understanding of who Britto is as an artist and the scope of what he has accomplished as a businessperson. It’s clear that Vidal recognizes Britto’s rarity as a brand and an artist.

“The thing about being an artist is it’s not like winning the lottery, [where] you create one piece, and that’s the moment. It’s many moments, and I think that is the difficult thing sometimes for an artist or creator — to come to a realization that it is not just one painting, one sculpture, one movie, or one book that you write. It is a combination of many things,” Britto says. “This is something I learned earlier [in my career]; there were many paintings, many sculptures, many projects — and I will keep doing it until my last breath.”

For Britto and Vidal, there are still many untapped industries to explore. The dynamic duo had just come off a conference call with the world’s largest cosmetics company prior to our meeting and is about to announce a series of new collaborations in Asia (China, South Korea, Mongolia and Japan). Britto’s dreams are big. “I could always go and open something super shy and small, but I always have liked things big,” he declares. “It is really important for people to keep dreaming big — it is how we, as humans, keep evolving. Imagine, without dreaming, how could we possibly evolve?” he says, also crediting industry innovators like Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

And while Britto has a number of notable collaborations with massive conglomerates like Disney, Carnival Cruise Line and Citigroup, there’s a new project on the horizon that hits a bit closer to home for him: Britto: The Art of Happiness, the biopic on the rise of Britto, from his poor childhood in Brazil to moments before arriving at Buckingham Palace to becoming one of the most famed artists in the world. The film will be produced by Kory Apton and Armando Gutierrez, also producers of Bezos and Walt Before Mickey. For Britto, the entire experience is surreal. “[For this film], I go back to my roots — it is going to be very special,” he says. “The movie is an incredible and inspirational story that people have never heard before.” Throughout his career, Britto has become known as the artist of happiness and hope at the helm of the Happy Art Movement, and through this film he hopes that the viewers will better understand his story as an artist and see where all the hope and love came from.

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia

“A movie now, especially because I am still alive, is unbelievable,” he adds, reflecting on how he was honored at the 2012 Rio de Janeiro Carnaval, the most famous form of cultural expression in Brazil, which was astounding, as it primarily honors those who have passed. The movie, debuting in December of 2022, is for legacy, celebrating how Britto has transcended generations through his art and charisma.
Britto’s art is already studied in arts programs in schools worldwide, showcasing him as a legend and an influential figure in pop and postmodern art. Romero has been awarded the title of Professor Emeritus for the Arts for Miami Dade schools, two PhDs in Art, co-founder of the Harvard International Negotiation Program and he is a speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Wharton School of Business and INSEAD.

But it’s not just his vibrant color palette and bold expression that has set him apart; it’s his devotion and consistency to creating pieces that provoke joy and happiness that has started a real movement, The Happy Art Movement.

“I did not know at the time that [the movement] was happening; people would tell me that my art made them happy,” he recalls. “It is a universal feeling; we all hope to love life. We hope to have success and be happy, no matter where you are on the planet. And that’s what I’m celebrating here with my art. Beautiful things of life — like a light,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.

There’s no denying that Britto is constantly celebrating design. He arrived for our cover shoot in a head-to-toe Dolce & Gabbana — crown and all. “I love fashion,” he says. “I love dressing up and going out to enjoy and celebrate life.” It comes as no surprise that Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce have visited Romero and are dear friends of the artist. And this past summer, Britto collaborated with not only Wilson Sporting Goods in tennis, but also with Puma to create PUMA x BRITTO®, a streetwear collection featuring Britto’s signature color palette on dynamic graphics and prints.

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia

It’s imperative for Britto not to remain stagnant, whether in finding inspiration for paintings or new business ventures. Britto and Vidal’s plan for the next few years is nothing shy of monumental. “We want to expand into a new concept of franchise retail stores,” Lucas Vidal says. “Over the next 10 years, we want to have at least 1,000 stores all over the world with exclusive BRITTO® products developed by us.” Within the Palace, there are three different concept models the team is working on to perfect the franchise model. Simply put, the plan is to continue to scale, with no sight of slowing down.

Yet, amid all the growth, Britto continuously reminds himself to pause and soak it all in. “Don’t forget about the moment. Live in the moment — think about the future, but try to be in the moment,” he advises, an important lesson it took him years to learn. Nevertheless, he has indeed enjoyed all the moments — all in the name of happiness.