Artwork Restoration and the Dignity of Art

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Artwork from hundreds or even thousands of years ago remain on display in museums and exhibits for millions of people to view. Locked away in airtight, glass cases and surrounded by armour and alarms, the world’s most famous pieces of art are contained for their safety. The public is only allowed to view at certain times, in certain places, and under certain conditions.

100 years ago, the famous statue of Michelangelo’s David was moved to a museum from the open air of Italy, where it used to stand in the square. Why must pieces of art, such as the marble statue of David or the famous painting, “The Birth of Venus” be sentenced to a life in different environments?

At the MFA in Boston, a new conservation program has been put in place. There are labs for textiles, furniture, paintings, and every type of craft available. Similar technology is used across the world, including in the Netherlands. There, using modern-day technology, museum curators were able to find the type of paint and prove the authenticity of a painting found in an attic. What happened in the Netherlands shows how technology will be able to improve the restoration of paintings as well. By finding the correct paints and materials, restorers can create the most realistic and original restorations of the authentic work. This sort of restoration allows for generations ahead to enjoy the art and be able to cherish it for longer

The restoration of a 17th century painting (via Nerdist)

But there’s a question lingering in the air: should art really be restored? In a sense, art is temporary and is created to make an impact. Maybe the impact is for a certain generation and to be enjoyed by them at that time, not forever. And maybe specific pieces are to be enjoyed and observed in the outside, like the statue of David, and not in airtight cases in museums.

Art restoration has allowed for hundreds of years of work to be saved and enjoyed. Along with directly changing the piece itself, restoration may have also changed the message the artist was conveying. And isn’t art about the artist’s intent, or the interpretation of viewers?

About the author

Kendall Sommers is a freshman day student from Southborough, Massachusetts. She runs cross-country and will be trying squash and crew this year. She is also a tour guide and participates in Students for Sustainability, GSA and St. Marguerite's Partnership. She loves trying new types of writing, painting and playing with her two dogs. Kendall’s favorite thing to do is volunteer at Special Olympics and work with kids. She can’t wait to be a part of the Parkman Post and find a voice in her community.

1 Comment

  1. Olivia

    You have very insightful comments that bring up important questions which cut to the core of what constitutes artwork and who gets to participate in that. I would like to hear more of you thoughts on the lifespan of art and the implications of that on culture and history. If artwork can only be enjoyed during a certain time period, how does that impact societal knowledge and how we learn from past times? Should art even have a role in that?

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