Art: Restoration vs. Conservation

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A coworker and I have waged an argument over the past few months about the nature of art restoration and conservation. The question standing: If a piece of art is flaking or falling apart (read: damaged), should it be restored to its "original" state? (Original meaning what it looked like before, having the help of a professional.)

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I hold that yes, it should be. Or, if a piece is missing, help maintain the integrity of the artwork by adding a new portion but slightly discolor it, so viewers know the difference between the original and the new parts.

My colleague thinks that no such thing should happen. He feels that if a piece of art is disintegrating, that it should go, because any care taken to preserve it subtracts from the artist's intent and workmanship.

Well, I can no longer argue with him about it, but I suggested he attend "The Conservation of Historical Art" and take his grievances up with the presenter Victoria Ryan, an art conservator. The lecture takes place Friday, April 8 at 11 a.m. at the Old Colorado City History Center (1 S. 24th St., occhs.org).

From Peak Radar:

Victoria Ryan, an art conservator, will present a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the detailed procedures to preserve old art pieces. She recently completed work on an 1895 painting of George Washington by local artist, Charles Craig. The painting was originally donated to Washington Elementary School by the artist but has since traveled to several Westside schools and currently hangs at West Elementary.

Ms. Ryan will help you understand the difference between “conservation” and “restoration” which you may hear recommended on TV’s Antiques Roadshow. She has operated Art Care Services, in Colorado Springs, for twenty years, has served on the faculties of Queen’s University, Ontario and the University of Denver.

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