30 Apr 2007

Restoration of art

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Once you have invested in a work of art, it is important to take good care of it, since artworks that get damaged or show signs of age need to be restored, which can be an expensive process and will also substantially impact its investment potential.
Restoration is a complicated process and should be undertaken only by experts. One should never attempt to ‘clean’ paintings or other artworks with chemicals – it can cause irreparable damage and reduce its resale price. The materials and techniques used in restoration are decided based on their ageing patterns, their effect on the paintings and should be reversible in nature.

Venkat Singh, Director of Dharohar Art Conservation elaborates on the process involved – “first the painting is careful examined to evaluate the problem and to decide on the methodology of treatment. Documentation is then followed by a mechanical and chemical cleaning of dirt and surface grime. If necessary, the painting is de-varnished to reveal its original colors. Paint layers are consolidated and any tears or holes in the canvas are mended. In case, the damage in the canvas is a major one, a new canvas lining is added to provide strength to the old one. Next, comes the important step of infilling, and then retouching the area, were original paint is lost. Finally, the work is re-varnished, followed by a documentation of the results.”
The cost of restoration depends on the volume and area of damage. The location of damage also affects the cost, for instance, any damage on the face can escalate the cost. As an approximation, restoring a small sized painting (2'x3') can cost upwards of Rs 30-40,000 .

It is important to know that the process is not foolproof and can cause loss of important clues that can effect the authentication of the painting. “Also, no touch-up is ever done on the lost area of the artist’s signature,” points out Venkat.
Therefore, art conservation that focuses on preservation and preventive care becomes significant, as investing in art gathers momentum.

(Published in Financial Times)