Art Restoration is not DIY

While a work of art is intended to stand the test of and transcend time, the physical reality is that time can take its toll on almost everything. Even cleaning a work of art can pose challenges that extend beyond the mere controversy of tampering with the patina, and potentially the value. All things considered however, a restored work of art can give it a breath of life that can last generations.

Whether it is for your own personal enjoyment or for resale value there are several considerations that must be taken into account before consulting a conservator. It is possible that restoration will not increase the value, it can in fact deter some collectors, the art restoration process is a delicate one requiring expertise and the cost is not based on the value of the artwork itself – it can cost as much to restore a black velvet Elvis painting as it can to restore an 19th century oil painting. Cleaning is not restoring, special care and consideration must be given to cleaning of any work of art and while best left to the professionals it is the required first step to any restoration. The degree of repair can vary greatly, from tiny coloration touch ups to rips, cracks and tears.

Dirt and light damage most mediums of art over time, and some are more vulnerable than others to the damage, preservation is not always available and on occasion a piece may be acquired that was not properly protected. Gently wiping a sculpture is one thing, randomly wiping a delicate painting is something else all together. A light dusting is all any untrained individual should attempt on their own, and only a soft, high quality brush should be used, not a household feather duster or cloth of any sort.

Without precautions against UV light, fungi and bacteria, and humidity can damage the paint and the paper or canvas and each needs to be addressed as individual components to be properly restored. It is a delicate process, and a true science. A conservator is trained in minimal alteration and preservation, a restorer is trained in bringing the piece back to its original glory and each will manage your art with a different manner and mindset, so you need to understand what your final goal is before you select which genre of professional and why. Each are highly skilled artisans with very different results.

While techniques vary based on the amount of repair required a restorer can bring aged work of art back to life by following detailed steps that generally include; proper delicate cleaning to eliminate grime, dust and mold, mending small rips and tears, varnishing to bring back life to the color and finish, restoring color to faded areas, often with a tinted varnish, tiny dots to blend in harmony with the original with the result intended to match the original artist vision. It may include rebacking, reframing, frame repair, depending upon condition.

There is no doubt however that a fully restored painting can be as spectacular as the original, the artists vision brought to new generations and can extend the life of a painting indefinitely.

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