What is art conservation? Is it the same as restoration?

Art conservation is the field that focuses on the preservation of art and historical artifacts.  The term conservation can include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care.  Restoration is often used interchangeably with conservation, but actually restoration refers to a specific type of conservation treatment that attempts to return the object to its original appearance, or close to it.  A full conservation treatment often involves restoration.

I have a painting that is dirty and ripped.  How will you treat it?

Your painting may be discolored due to the darkening of an old varnish layer and/or grime that has accumulated on the surface.  We have a variety of solvents and detergents that we use to safely remove these surface coatings without harming the paint below.  Rips can be mended with a lining, which is the attachment of a secondary canvas or panel support to the reverse of the painting.  After lining, any visible paint losses would be filled and inpainted so that the damage is no longer visible.

Is it expensive?

The cost is dependent on the extent of the treatment needed, and based on our hourly rates of $110 for most jobs or $155 per conservator working on-site (i.e. when the art cannot be transported to us due to its size or nature).  We provide free assessments at our studio, at which point you will receive a quote for restoration before deciding whether to have us proceed with treatment.

Is it worth it?

This is something that only you can answer.  Many people choose to have pieces restored for their sentimental worth regardless of monetary worth.  Maybe the piece is a family heirloom that the owner hopes to preserve for the enjoyment of future generations.  In other cases, clients may choose to have their works of art restored in hopes of increasing monetary value.  Regardless, if you have a work of art that is deteriorating or is unstable, it is always in the artwork’s best interest to have it properly treated.

Can you tell me how much my art is worth?

No.  Wouldn’t you be more likely to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars restoring a painting if we told you it was worth millions?  It is considered unethical for conservators to provide appraisals because of the conflict of interest presented.  However, we would be happy to refer you to a professional appraiser.

Will having my painting restored affect its value at auction?

Many people wonder this, and there is no simple answer.  Quality restoration in itself is not detrimental to the value of a painting, but it is an indication to a potential buyer that at some point in its history, the painting had an issue that needed fixing.  The art market is extremely unpredictable, but in general, a damaged painting that has been mended competently would likely be more attractive at auction than the same painting had it not been repaired.

What are the ethics involved in conservation?

Our primary goals are to act in the best interest of the artwork while preserving the artist’s original intent as much as it is possible to do so.  Minimal restoration is always desirable; we retouch only areas of loss, and never paint over any original paint.  Additionally, all of our techniques (with the exception of cleaning) are fully reversible and detectible.  The American Institute for Conservation publishes a code of ethics and guidelines for practice which informs our treatment decisions.

Where is the work done?

All the work is done by us, right here in our South Hamilton location.  We welcome you to drop by anytime to see what we’re working on.

What types of art do you treat?

We specialize in works on canvas and panel, and frame and object gilding and repair.  We do not restore furniture, textiles or works of art on paper (watercolors, pastels, photographs, etc) but we would be happy to recommend a specialist for these projects.

Are you insured? Will my art be secure?

Yes!  Your artwork will be covered under our AXA Art Insurance policy while in our possession.  Our shop is secured with an alarm system and motion detectors.

I have something that needs attention but I am nervous about transporting it myself.  Can you pick it up?

We are not able to offer pickup and delivery at this time. You will need to arrange transportation of the artwork to us. We are happy to provide recommendations for shipping or art transport companies.

How long will it take to have my piece restored?

We are currently telling our clients to expect about four months turnaround time, but this can vary depending upon the extent of the treatment needed as well as how many other projects we have lined up.  We work on projects in the order that they come in to us.  If you have a deadline you are working with we will do our best to accommodate it.

What is your background?

Tim is a pear reviewed professional member of the American Institute for Conservation.  He holds Masters and Bachelors degrees in fine art, art history, and art education.  He learned the trade through an extensive apprenticeship coupled with years of hands-on experience as a professional artist.

Is restoration something I can do on my own?

While art conservation is best left to the professionals, there are some preventive steps you can take at home to ensure a long life for your artwork.  That being said, much of what we are tasked with fixing is the result of botched restorations from amateurs or well-intentioned owners, so if you are unsure, please ask us or bring it to us first!

Have you ever treated any works by notable artists?

Some notable artists whose works we’ve treated include Frank Benson, George Vicat Cole, Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, Joseph DeCamp, Lydia Field Emmett, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Emile Gruppe, Francesco Guardi, Anselm Kiefer, Yves Klein, Thomas Moran, James McNeill Whistler, Norman Rockwell, Dirck van Santvoort, John Singer Sargent, Gilbert Stuart, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Thomas Ball, Hippolyte Camille Delpy, William Morris Hunt, Emile Munier, Albert Bierstadt, Eugene Boudin, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Stephan Kessler, David Johnson, Aldro Thompson Hibbard, among many others.

Do you have a question that wasn’t answered here? Would you like to set up an appointment to have us answer questions specific to your art? Get in touch!