Deliciously Dirty – Battling Dirt, Grime & Slime

Most visitors to museums, galleries, or private collections view the art being displayed in presentation ready condition. For historical art, this usually means that somewhere along the way a trip to the conservator was necessary. Few artworks spend their existence in hermetically sealed bubbles, therefore the ravages of time can create considerable issues and challenges for conservators. The skilled hands and encyclopedic knowledge of a conservator are what can make a work of art look superb. In our experience conservators are like restaurants – you can find quick and cheap ones, exclusive and expensive ones, or ones that fall somewhere in between.

One determining factor we have when considering the purchase of a work is its condition. We love to acquire pieces which are “deliciously dirty”. By this we mean works that are basically in an untouched state – they have never been worked on by a mediocre conservator or, yikes, even worse by grandma’s brillo pad. Artworks in this unconserved state are desirable because we are able to turn them over to a highly skilled conservation team, and not have to worry about any previous efforts which might have done more harm than good. Over the years we’ve seen our fair share of artworks that are in sad states of disrepair as well as ones with unfixable issues. In many cases the owners are unaware of these condition issues and how they can potentially affect value.

John Leslie Breck before conservation

A John Leslie Breck, just a bit dirty…

One memorable work we acquired in a “deliciously dirty” state was a painting by Continue reading