Pernotto Shows His Personal Art Collection

WARREN, Ohio – Jim Pernotto has been an artist for five decades, but he has also been an art collector for just as long.

Like most artists, he amassed a huge collection by trading art with his colleagues, purchasing it or receiving works as gifts. His trove has many treasures and it also reflects his own taste in art.

While the Youngstown-based Pernotto has exhibited his work many times in his career, he has never showcased the art in his personal collection – until now.

His latest show, titled “You Have to See It to Be it: The Pernotto Collection,” opened March 24, at the Medici Museum of Art in Howland and will remain on display through May 19. It includes about 40 paintings, prints, drawings and other pieces.

Some other select pieces from his collection that are not in the exhibition will be sold at auction on April 30 at the Medici to raise money for the museum, and also the William H. McGuffey Historical Society.

Just how big is Pernotto’s personal collection?

“It’s in the thousands, at least 2,000 pieces,” he says.

The show has been in development with the Medici for about a year. His initial plan was to exhibit his own works, but his changing life circumstances helped change his mind.

Pernotto last year was forced to move out of his long-time studio on the second floor of the Silver’s Vogue Shop building in downtown Youngstown, because the building was sold.

In the process of packing up, he took stock of his own collection.

He had long since found a convenient way to store the art, but now he wants others to see it.

“Most of my collection are works on paper that I keep under my bed,” Pernotto says.

Exhibiting his own collection was never part of his plans until now.

“Like virtually everything in my life, it just happened,” Pernotto says. “The gallery was available, and I was asked to do a show.”

The idea to exhibit his collection grew from conversations with Katelyn Amendolara-Russo, executive director of the Medici.

“We started talking about the stories behind the art [in Pernotto’s collection], and thought it would make an interesting show,” she says.

Ever since he was forced to move last year, Pernotto had been thinking about auctioning pieces in his collection to benefit arts organizations. The Medici show dovetails with that goal.

“I would rather have it hanging on people’s walls, where they could appreciate it, than under my bed,” Pernotto says, noting that many of the pieces are about 40 years old.

Pieces from Pernotto’s private collection that will be auctioned in April.

Highlights of the show include silk screen prints by Bill Weege, lithographs by Clyde Singer, photography by Holger Keifel, a silk screen print by Andy Warhol and Pernotto, and a poster from the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s final show.

Pernotto lived in several cities over the course of his art career. He started in Columbus, where he went to school and started collecting. He later worked in the print studio of William Weege in Wisconsin and ran a high-profile gallery in New York for many years, where he met many great artists.

The works in his collection were obtained in those cities and others. Pernotto returned to his hometown of Youngstown in 2004.

The overarching goal of the exhibition is to encourage art lovers to start their own collection.

“Most of the time, people don’t have the opportunity to see an artist’s own tastes in art,” Amendolara-Russo says. “And there’s always an interesting story behind each piece. I am often asked, ‘How do you get started collecting art.’ Jim is an advocate for collecting art and this show is a perfect springboard for it.”

The title of the show reflects not only Pernotto’s advice on becoming a working artist, but also in becoming an art collector.

“In so many things in life, you can start down a path such as art but not know the heighth of it,” he says.

“For me, the art thing changed constantly because I had no role models. But the steps along the way change your idea as to what you can do.”

Learning to be an artist is a collaborative process, and not something done alone, and the same is true of becoming an art collector, Pernotto says.

“You don’t know the possibilities of what you can be until you see someone else doing it,” he continues.

Pernotto says he never thought he could be a working artist until he went to work and study at Weege’s Wisconsin studio.

“That changed everything,” he says. “Artists were coming in from New York. I began to think, ‘I can do this. I could make a living like this. And I am also this good.

“So – you can’t be it unless you see it!”

Pictured at top: Artist Jim Pernotto stands near some of the works in his personal art collection at The Medici Museum of Art.