Gallery Talk

Be careful what you wish for….

27 September · Sally
Be careful what you wish for….

When 81-year-old Cecilia Giménez offered to restore a 120-year-old fresco painting in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near the small Spanish town of Zaragoza, the priest agreed the weathered work did need a bit of a spruce-up. After a bit of cleaning here, a major touch up there, the century-old portrait of Jesus, Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by local artist Elias Garcia Martinez, was transformed into what has been described as a Neanderthal’s self-portrait, a re-run of Rowan Atkinson’s comic desecration of Whistler’s Mother or, charmingly, “Ewok Jesus”. It’s the art joke of the century – devotees have since launched a petition to halt the restoration of the “restoration” and Giménez is threatening to sue the church for her share of the proceeds from thousands of visitors. But it is also a salutary message.
Restoration and conversation work is not for amateurs – not for art curators, pictures framers or 81-year-old parishioners (unless they are fully qualified and belong to an accredited conservators’ group). Conservation is a defined process aimed at preventing or remedying damage and deterioration of cultural items.
New Zealand is lucky to have a number of highly trained, professional conservators (see Professional conservators are trained in the analysis, treatment and preservation of works of art. Under strict conservation guidelines any processes undertaken are fully reversible and documented. At City Art we are happy to refer owners of damaged work on to conservators accredited by the NZCCM (New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials Pu Manaaki Kahurangi) or liaise with – and transport work to – the appropriate conservator on their behalf.

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