My Collecting Philosopy

What Makes a Work of Art?

An Essay By David Zermeno

Before we get into the topic of my philosophy about art, collecting, and what makes something worthy of being called "art", I'd like to begin by explaining my unique perspective on art & collecting, not only as an arts professional, but also as an avid collector and creative artist. 

An artist is someone who has a unique gift to look at an object, and see "potential & possibility".  Often it requires seeing something old and transforming it into something completely new.  For example, whether I'm in an art gallery in Paris, an antiques market in New York, or whether I'm buying antiques in a barn gallery in New England, I am always amazed to see how some plain objects, even antique machinery and tools, can be so beautiful and appreciated as sculpture or  an "objet d'art" with all their fascinating shapes, curves, and forms...

For me personally, true art (at its core) is something that inspires or"moves me".  It doesn't even always have to be an original masterpiece for me to value and appreciate. Take this unique knitted reproduction of Toulouse-Lautrec for example.  When I first saw it, I just couldn't help but smile because seeing it gave me so much joy.  I greatly appreciated that someone had the idea and actually took the time to hand-knit and personally create a hand-made Toulouse-Lautrec with yarn. 

She just simply signed her piece by her first name: "Debbi".  I was very touched by that!  She even created this work on linen, and did it with such bold vibrant
red and yellow colors celebrating The Moulin Rouge.  Debbi expressed herself in yarn with such whimsical expressive joy!  Just look at the joy of the white cotton polka dots popping in contrast out of the red blouse with the crowd in the background... Knitting the joy and excitement of the Moulin Rouge took some serious skill!  Having "appreciated" this piece for what it was, I immediately snagged this unique knitted Toulouse Lautrec created with yarn on a linen canvas...  So I quickly rushed to pay for it before someone realized its value and started a bidding war with me!!!  And now every day I am still touched by having a knitted Toulouse Lautrec.

Does a reproduction belong in a museum? 

I know you're thinking "definitely not", but that doesn't matter to me in the least because as an
"American in Paris" artist, I value this French-themed crafted piece so it actually means a lot to me.  Seeing this piece gives me joy!

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And isn't that what art is supposed to do? 

When Marcel Duchamp turned a bike upside down, the same was true... He took something already made, "the ready made", and just put his unique stamp on it.  Just like when he also took a reproduction of Leonardo Da Vinci and put a mustache on the face of the Mona Lisa.  Duchamp was having fun criticizing Leonardo for painting his models to appear like "men". I won't say any more about that here...  In any case, now Leonardo's reproduction with Duchamp's mustache and beard is officially called a work of art in a museum and will forever be listed in the halls of the history of art... But let's be honest.  In fairness to museums, no one had EVER put a mustache on a reproduction on Leonardo's Mona Lisa before! 

Likewise, I've never seen a whimsical Toulouse Lautrec knitted in yarn.  That's why this knitted Toulouse-Lautrec is also in my own collection as a genuine hand-made "objet d'art".   It doesn't matter that it was created by an unknown artist. For all I know, Debbi could have been a housewife, or even someone's grandmother sitting on a rocking chair on her porch knitting her Toulouse-Lautrec. It doesn't really matter to me!  I love this piece just the same! So, whoever this Debbi was, she clearly had a sense of creativity and humor, and I completely understand and totally LOVE her for that!

Okay, so what makes something a genuine work of art? 

Well, this is a complex subject.  To keep it simple, it's my personal philosophy that what makes a work of art is in the heart of the beholder, so art is really about "appreciation".  Appreciation is to art, what gratitude is to life.  So when it comes to each work of art in my collection, such as this hand-made reproduction done with yarn on linen, clearly this knitted piece doesn't have to be an original Toulouse-Lautrec or Picasso to have value to me.  Look at Andy Warhol; he made an entire career making "reproductions"!  He wasn't the first either...  In fact, let's face it; even L
autrec's art posters are also essentially reproductions!!!  

And as for Picasso, he also doesn't have a monopoly on creativity and what makes something valuable!  Again, value is in the eye of the beholder!  In fact, unlike most trained artists, so many of our children create art everyday so naturally without ever even thinking of Picasso! 

As parents, we value our children's art so much we can't help putting it on our refrigerator because a child's art genuinely gives us joy and makes us happy.  That in itself is "priceless"!  For inspiration, that's why even Picasso himself studied (and even copied) children creating art to help him be playful and creative in his own work!  There's an important message in what I am saying here...   So listen up because there's a truly deep and profound lesson in this for all of us! 

So even if you will never be able to paint like Picasso, I hope you realize that you TOO really do have value in your own unique way! Don't get me wrong.  I absolutely LOVE Picasso!!!  Having lived in Paris, there's no way I could not love Picasso!  And even though I have been greatly influenced by Picasso, when I'm creating art in my studio, it's a good thing that I could never paint like him because I need to make sure I am tapping into my own creativity for inspiration. As an artist, not being able to paint like Picasso is actually a really good thing because that is what actually frees me up truly paint like myself!  

So when it comes to my philosophy of collecting, likewise I collect things made by hand that either inspire me, put a smile on my face, and give me joy.  I hope the following works of art I've collected are as interesting and enjoyable and bring as much joy to you as they do to me. And if not, that's okay too.  To each his own.  After all, that's why there's as many artists and styles of art in the world.  That's why some people prefer the refinement of Leonardo Da Vinci, while others love the wit and sense of humor of Marcel Duchamp.  Besides, in the arts there's plenty of room for everyone.

Now let's get back to this unknown artist named "Debbi".  Even if her work will never be valued and appreciated by such a great and established museum in Paris such as the Musée d'Orsay, where many original Toulousse-Lautrecs are found, Debbie's knitted Lautrec nonetheless still has great value and is "precious" to me! 

As Americans, we have the concept of "created for the people, by the people"!  So Debbi, where ever you are in the world, eat your heart out because your knitted Toulouse-Lautrec work of art on linen that you crafted in yarn has enriched my everyday life, and you should now be proud of yourself for that! That's also why your unpretentious hand-made knitted work of art has now at least officially made it into ZERMENOMUSEUM.

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Original Knitted Work on Linen

Unknown artist only known as

"Debbi"

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"Objet D'Art"

New England Barn Art

This original bronze tool (or key representing both masculine & feminine forms) from a barn in New England was once used by a New England farmer or machinist and is now appreciated as an "Objet D'art".

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Marcel Duchamp

Artist/Innovator/Provocateur

Turning the Art World upside down by taking something old and turning into something "new".

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Dada Art by Marcel Duchamp

Mustache on "Reproduction" of Leonardo Da Vinci

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Toulouse-Lautrec Art Poster

"The Art of Reproductions"...

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Picasso creating art with kids...

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"Debbi"

(Unknown Artist)

Hand-made knitted yarn on linen reinterpretation of

Toulouse Lautrec's depiction of the Moulin Rouge

Now in the American in Paris Gallery

ZERMENOMUSEUM, USA