ASPEN - Simon Jorna had no intention of getting into the art-dealing business. Jorna, a native of Holland, had his hands full as owner and operator of the Beach Bakery Cafe, a wildly popular spot in Westhampton Beach, on Long Island. And if the bakery were not enough, he had his hands in plenty of other pies, including investing in film projects.
But once Jorna did get pulled into the gallery business, he knew who would be the first artist he would reach out to: Romero Britto, a Brazilian-born, Miami-based painter, sculptor and printmaker who generally goes by the name Britto. Jorna, who owns a residence in Miami, met the artist in Florida about six years ago, and was taken with Britto's warmth and outgoing friendliness.
"If you spend time in Miami, you know Britto," Jorna said. And he was impressed with how that good cheer was translated into the art - engaging, bright confections influenced by cubism, graffiti and pop art.
"If you look at a painting from Britto it can only make you happy," Jorna said. "Other art, it can make you sad, or horny. Maybe you hang that in your bedroom. But Britto, you can hang anywhere."
In fact, Britto's work has turned up in numerous places which might not be a perfect fit for just any art. In 2007, his "Pyramid Project" was exhibited in London's Hyde Park, becoming the first artist to have a major installation in the prominent London spot. His designs have been on bottles of Evian water and Absolut vodka.
Jorna, a tall 45-year-old, was looking to rent the space next door to his bakery to a clothing manufacturer, Vince Mone. Mone had a concept for a retail outlet that would sell his casual clothing line - shirts, jeans, leather jackets - as well as art. But he had cold feet about opening in Westhampton Beach, a tiny and relatively sedate village tucked among the better-known towns that make up the Hamptons scene. Jorna, a devoted art collector who made regular visits to Dutch museums before moving to the States 24 years ago, decided to go into business with Mone. Thus, this past Fourth of July, Jorna became a co-owner of McKenzie Tribe (though even he can't say where the unusual name came from).
Earlier this month, Jorna opened an Aspen outlet for McKenzie Tribe. The spot opens Saturday with a 6 p.m. reception featuring music by Emanuele Tozzi. The store features Mone's clothing, and the work of various artists, including two from Jorna's native Holland: Erwin van Zijl and Paul de Vries.
But it seems clear that the work that feels most like home to Jorna is Britto's. When he saw Mone's designs, he knew there was another place where Britto's art would fit right in.
"I saw Vince's clothing, the colors, and I thought, 'It has to be Britto. Has to be,'" Jorna said.