Vincent Maria Brunetti – Vincent City

What I would like to tell you would seem like a fairy tale that begins with: “Once upon a time.” But, in reality, this fantastic place really exists and the protagonist is an artist who lives in Guagnano, 20km from Lecce. He can be seen in the distance, hidden among vineyards and olive trees, a “sacred” and peaceful place, where art comes to life: Vincent Maria Brunetti house, better known as VINCENT CITY. The hermitage is a cross between Gaudi’s architecture and the house of Hansel and Gretel: a place out of time, where art becomes balm for the soul. Here the beauty is rich in colours, shades, where each line gives face to the artist’s feelings, embroidering his ideas, his thoughts, set like colorful gems along the entrance walls. A place intended to tell the interior world of its imaginative creator: mosaics, icons, sculptures and paintings decorate the building.

Vincent Eremo
Vincent Eremo ©

Life of Vincent Maria Brunetti

Vincent Maria Brunetti
Vincent Maria Brunetti

Vincent Maria Brunetti, one of the most emblematic figures of the southern artistic panorama, also called the “dragonfly of the south“, is one of the few painters who has made his life a protest, who has managed to free himself from the “system” and the grip of gallery owners, critics and artistic and cultural associations, building his little kingdom.

Artist, painter, sculptor born in Guagnano (LE) on 3 December 1950, he was struck by polio at a young age and managed to recover his strength thanks to the treatment of Mariano Orrico, creator of “Lamina Bior”, according to whom any kind of disease can be defeated by the principle of static electricity. Precisely thanks to this method Brunetti was able to recover his joy of living, which today he manages to express through his propitiatory dance. Brunetti was a bohemian artist in Milan, where in 1970 he was awarded the Ambrogio d’oro. His art was appreciated and encouraged by Giacomo Manzù and Arnaldo Pomodoro who welcomed him as an apprentice in his workshop. He then went on a spiritual retreat during which he had an inspiration and, returning to Salento, in 1993 he built Vincent City.

The construction of the structure caused many difficulties from a bureaucratic point of view and the artist was arrested for illegal construction. However, the conviction did not stop him and his “house” is currently a constantly evolving construction site. Here the artist welcomes hundreds of enthusiasts and curious people on a monthly basis who, in addition to visiting the house-museum, purchase his works and often enjoy the spectacle that the master’s creativity and healthy madness provide. His smile involves and captures. He seems to release an intense energy, the energy that Vincent says he possessed after polio. Many define him as an eccentric and exuberant artist, some consider him a skilled entrepreneur, others do not approve of his abusive condition, but Brunetti certainly appears to be an over-the-top character around whose figure hovers an aura of charm which is the key to success of him.

Vincent Maria Brunetti
Vincent Maria Brunetti


Visiting the house museum and meeting Vincent, a crazy and extraordinary character, was a unique experience. A meeting with Vincent Maria Brunetti is not just a meeting with an eclectic and extravagant artist but it is a meeting with a soul. After living and working for more than 20 years in Milan, he decided to abandon the corrupt and commodified life of the metropolis, to return to his bright Salento, where today he leads a hermit’s life. “I felt the need to isolate myself to understand myself better, to know and thus to give the best of myself to others… in the form of art”.

Completely uninterested in the outside world, Vincent’s only goal is for the people who frequent his house to enjoy beauty. Every day is a day open to happiness, a daily adventure for a journey which, as he himself confided to me, will end in 2090 (when he will go away flying!).

1. Who is Vincent Maria Brunetti? How did this name come about?

“The name Vincent was born (it was attributed to me) by a gallery owner from Milan, Roberto Margara, who I had known since I was 23-24 years old, then I had an existential crisis following a car accident and from there, I moved away from Milan for a long time. Once this bad period passed, I returned and met this gallery owner again, who promised me that we would have an exhibition of paintings. He told me that another name would be needed for the exhibition: Vincent (most likely in memory of the great Vincent Van Gogh). The exhibition was no longer held, but that name remained in my heart. Since then all the people who lived near my house and family members started calling me that! It all started as a joke… and now I can no longer betray this reality!”

2. How did the need to build the hermitage, his house, arise?

“After I had the existential crisis, I lived 10 years of mystical, religious life. I faced negative realities, even with the church system. I dreamed of a colorful church, where there was no suffering, I had a glorious vision of faith; instead of seeing Jesus crucified, see Jesus risen. So in this resurrection I had the idea of creating for him, a new church full of colors, which contrasts with the old.

I am “son of the new” I cannot stand on the already made of another. On this plot of land I saw a “new world”, I imagined it and from there I saw the town with the church which however I consecrated to art. Pope Wojtyla gave me the idea when he said that one day the world will be guided by artists; that is, an artist king, a king who is close to his people, who is like humble people. Humility, therefore the ability to do something for others, to step outside of myself to broaden my soul towards humanity, therefore I have overcome all human things, earthly law. I even overcame poverty, because art made me a prince!

I am aware of who I am, I am aware of the breadth of my soul. I did everything illegally, when it could still be done, because the Lord God predestined me in all the stages of my life. And this is the most beautiful expression of freedom, that is, the artist is a free, unconditioned king. I built the house just for art, once upon a time artists worked for nobles, for popes, for kings in order to create. I did it alone with my own strength, so art for art’s sake! The paintings are like children for me, who go into the world to expand my need for beauty, to be touched by others too. The paintings are like sentinels, positive bombs that come in to immunize all the rottenness that is around.”

3. What does art represent for you? How did this passion arise?

“…I was 8 years old, my father was in France working, it was 1958. One evening my mother (she drew models because she was a seamstress) traced the profile of a human face with a pencil on a piece of paper. It was a shock for me. It was the first time I saw someone draw and from there I swore to myself that when I grew up I would be an artist. At 13 I was sent to boarding school and there were 4 subjects: mechanics, bookbinding, electronics and photography. I chose photography, but my professor Pompeo Melotti, also an artist, learned that I was passionate about drawing. From here I began to have a passion for art… he was born like this, because it had to happen!”

Then he continues: “Art represents everything! I gave my life for art. I continuously cultivated the cult of beauty, I had healthy, clean role models, thanks also to my educators who were Christians. I turned off materiality to raise the spirit. When I discovered the life of the spirit, of the soul, my life changed. And then I had a dream, to be happy! All my friends in Milan said that you can’t be happy, that happiness is a moment. I said no! If it is true that happiness exists, it means that it must exist, it’s just a matter of finding it! The key is in the Gospel, therefore, in the resurrection. Sacrifice is a moment, like childbirth which is momentarily painful, but which later becomes happiness with the birth of a new life.”

4. What do you want to express or inspire through his paintings?

Interest in art. We have a system in Italy where art is not contemplated, because it is thought that you can’t eat with art, that artists are crazy and that art is only for intellectuals. For me, painting means creating, arousing emotions and by doing so I involve people in the creative act, in fact it seems as if they were intoxicated, they enter into catalepsy. My aim is to make her relax, to make her fall in love with artistic beauty through chromotherapy, which is life-saving. So the purpose is therapeutic, it is medicine for the soul.”

5. How much influence has Salento, a land rich in history, art and culture, had on your creativity?

It was precisely the distance from his native land that encouraged Vincent Maria Brunetti to “inflame” his palette, full of the colors of his beloved land. “Of course! When I was in Milan, yes… the paintings were colorful because I brought Salento inside me, since Milan was very grey. The fact that God chose Salento to create my home is prophetic. Here, always in close contact with nature, the new will be born, that is me, and it is here that I will guide everyone towards freedom!”

Vincent Eremo
Vincent Eremo

The hermitage of Vincent Maria Brunetti

His intimate need for isolation arises from the desire to explore himself, understand himself, know himself and give to others the purest and truest essence of himself. He lives far from the chaotic and spasmodic, frenetic and depersonalized life and moreover his art is an antidote capable of alleviating all this. And it is right here, in the heart of Salento, in that peace that only nature can offer, that Vincent’s hermitage was born, an imaginary city, an indescribable, colourful, “strange” place, with a kitsch taste, as most would say, made with recycled materials and with the fruit of the extremely crazy genius of this artist who has fascinated Salento and beyond with his vicissitudes since ’93.

Vincent Eremo
Vincent Eremo

It is a happy island where the artist manages to find inspiration for his works. Creativity, lightness and beauty, are the messages that are reflected in these works. His house is a place open to all those who want to browse and admire his creations. It is an important point of reference for those who still love beauty and everything clean and honest that comes from the heart and hands of man, which allows for true psychic relaxation, a “collective catharsis” for numerous art lovers , who is defined as “a divinity who needs his prophets.”

The hermitage is an enchanted place, somewhere between fairy-tale and disturbing but it has a particular charm. Everything it contains seems to make no sense but is extremely bizarre and unusual. Furthermore, it is rich in works of art present outside and inside, almost acting as a guard, preventing modernity from entering and upsetting the much desired balance. Some might find them excessive and redundant, but unquestionably attractive and original! In the house museum you can find “everything juxtaposed with everything”. The sacred and the profane, as demonstrated by the reproductions of works of religious subjects, juxtaposed with those of pagan statues. There is, in fact, a double aspect of Vincent Maria Brunetti’s personality: a very strong faith and a strong propensity for freedom and independence.

In fact, one can find transpositions of the Statue of Liberty, the Christian Madonnas, the twin towers, Venus emerging from the waters, flowers, animals, as well as landscapes, poems, even soft toys, which are placed next to the faces of the greats of history, so to give a more “playful” touch. It’s impossible not to notice the many bright decorations and mysterious, often cryptic phrases printed on the walls. Every corner of the house is rich in meanings, poems and details that move away from rigid linear patterns, managing to surprise visitors. An extraordinary color and stylistic variety of tiles, used for flooring or for the composition of mosaics, which represent a puzzle capable of drawing you into a magical enchantment, together with paintings depicting oriental characters and still lifes. The mosaics that cover every surface of the space are, in reality, the work of Orodè Deoro.

The artist lived in the “Vincent City” for three years, dedicating himself to pictorial art and experimentation with ceramic mosaic. Deoro’s permanent works are many: The Triumph of Bacchus, Posters, Donna Ulivo and Mediterranean wave, Mondoperapocalistoria (unfinished work), the penultimate supper and many others. The permanent exhibition of Brunetti’s works is organized inside, together with the art gallery of his paintings for sale.

Vincent Eremo
Vincent Eremo ©

Peter Pan from Salento welcomes spectators, sitting on a stool intent on painting, running here and there, in a strong need for freedom.

That freedom that is hidden in the heart of every man and on his “flight” expresses the desire to free himself from the weight of matter carried by dance music that can also be heard from the stree .

Vincent Maria Brunetti’s studio is bright and sunny, with all the tools of the trade at hand.

Day after day, Vincent Maria Brunetti’s hermitage grows on itself, arousing amazement and perplexity. Guagnano, which wanted to demolish everything under the accusation of illegal building, must today admit that it is one of its greatest attractions. Vincent Maria Brunetti is not only the well-known and extravagant artist who created everything from nothing, but he is a singular combination of genius and (un)regulation! Vincent Maria Brunetti may not have been, of course, capable of changing the world, but he created a new one, an alternative one, where everything is recycled or is recycled, where he is the undisputed sovereign and his paintings and his art are the guardians of kingdom.

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