Familiarizing with the Basics of Art Conservation & Restoration

Art and antiques can fade, crack, chip, and be damaged in innumerable ways as they age. These damages affect the beauty, as well as the value of many pieces. Art conservators are experts in the long-term conservation of art and antiques.

What Is Art Conservation and Restoration?

Art conservation “stabilizes” the piece, helping protect it from further deterioration. Restoration is the aspect of art conservation in which a piece is returned to a state that is closer to its original appearance and quality. There are many misperceptions about what art conservators do. The idea is not to make the painting or antique look “new”.

Experts who restore art often have an “invisible” job. Original paint must be left intact in order to preserve quality and value. Art conservators and restorers are not usually appraisers—this requires a different type of expertise. A good snapshot of the day-to-day work of art conservators and restorers deftly incorporates art repairs to blend seamlessly into each piece as a whole.

Art conservators mark spots that need to be restoredHow to Find an Expert in Art Conservation and Restoration

It is essential to find a professional who can restore or conserve your particular artwork or antique with expertise. Art conservators often specialize in a particular area, such as paper, furniture, or photographs. Be sure to have a list of questions in hand when you screen prospective art conservators. Visit the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works for an overview of art conservation and restoration and a list of questions to ask of conservators. The site also includes a tool for finding a conservator or restorer. Local museums are also a good source for referrals.

Confirm the Services to Be Provided by the Art Conservator or Restorer

Be sure to request a “treatment proposal”, which art conservator Randy Smith of Vermont describes as a contract that includes what exactly will be done to the artwork, what the client can reasonably expect as the end result, an estimate of cost, and the time required for treatment (also known as conservation or restoration).

Be Patient in Your Quest for Optimal Art Conservation and Restoration

Whether the piece has sentimental or monetary value, an understanding of art conservation and restoration basics and a thorough search for the best expert is the best approach to be sure your artwork or antique is preserved in top form. Once an expert has been identified, the process is far from instant. The work is often painstaking, but the results will be worth it.