Understanding the Art Market: Condition, Restoration and Conservation
The effect that the condition of an artwork has on its value is something that is very unpredictable and dependant on many different factors. As a general rule you should try and avoid purchasing an artwork that is in poor condition unless the artwork is of significant importance and is worth the considerable cost of restoration or conservation. I have seen many people purchase artworks in poor condition that were by a well known artist and were cheap because they thought that they were getting a bargain when in reality they were wasting their money.
Restoration and conservation of art is something that should only be done by the very best restorers and will cost a considerable amount of money so one needs to take into consideration how much the restoration will cost compared with how much it will increase the value of the work. There are also many works on the market that have been poorly restored and will be even harder, and more costly to rectify than those that are in poor condition and have not been restored. You are therefore better off not purchasing artworks that have undergone a poor restoration or been over restored.
One of the most common mistakes that people make is over cleaning and over restoring works of art which can cause a significant reduction in value because people have a certain expectation that an artwork will show signs of age and as such will realise that these signs of age are part of the history of the work. If an artwork is to be restored it should be done using the same materials and techniques so as to not change the way the artwork appeared when first painted and should be undertaken more as a method of conservation. The number of works in original state are becoming fewer and fewer and in recognition of this, the demand for those in exceptional condition has become extremely high.
Henry Phillips, a Trinity College chemistry professor who is an expert in the restoration and conservation of art makes the comment that “The whole goal of art conservation is to preserve the original vision of the artist, not my vision of what it could or should be. If you’re going to restore a piece of art to the way it was on the day it was finished, you need to know exactly what materials they used.”
The condition of an artwork is something that should never be overlooked as any sort of damage can turn an artwork from what may once have been a fantastic investment into a costly liability.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectables for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.