Art restoration and Art conservation are two separate fields of taking care of art objects. Whereas Art Restoration entails trying to return the work to an earlier state by cleaning it up and thereby further modifying it from its original state, Art conservation entails examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care of the art object supported by research and education. All conservation procedures are supposed to be documented and be as reversible as possible and all the alterations are supposed to be clearly distinguishable from the original art object.
In recent years, art restoration has also become a reversible process. Art restorers use watercolours to restore paintings. Art restoration refers not only to the restoration of paintings but also to the restoration of murals, photographs, manuscripts, sculptures, textiles and other art objects. Art restoration aims at trying to modify art objects so as to make it seem more similar to its original state. It is debated by some critics that art restoration further modifies the work and moves it further away from the original but the fact remains that good jobs at art restoration help in preserving the art work for a longer period of time.
Nature of Work
Art restoration entails not only removing flaking paint from paintings, retouching and painting over some parts but it is a specialised field which requires some degree of scientific knowledge especially of chemistry and primarily of painting and art history. If one is working with other media like sculpture, manuscripts, photographs or textiles, then one needs to have specialised knowledge in those fields. Art restoration is a time consuming task. One needs to work slowly and go over minute details.
One needs to be good at painting (or other art forms such as sculpting, handling textiles, manuscripts or photographs) primarily to work as an art restorer. One also needs to have a good knowledge of art history. Most art restorers work only in those fields in which they know a lot about. So the same art restorers do not work in widely varying fields like art objects from different ages and cultures. One also needs to spend time in different parts of the world as most art objects are restored in their present environments, like the museum or gallery where they are then stored. Art works are sometimes also allowed to be transported to special laboratories if they are not very fragile and not very large.
Professional courses are generally short-term, about two years or so, as opposed to the long term Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) courses which can go up to five years. Not too many institutes in India offer art restoration courses. Generally, art restorers have a BFA or an MFA degree.
Colleges, Institutions and Universities
The Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat (CKP) College of Fine Arts, Karnataka's premier art college is planning to offer a two year job oriented certificate course in art restoration. The course is aimed at the rural youth, who may be talented artists but cannot afford to spend five years or so getting a bachelors' or a master's degree in fine arts. Therefore, the eligibility requirements are not too high either. A class 10 pass is sufficient to enrol for the course. This is a vocational course aimed at providing technical education oriented towards the industry.
One can specialise in a particular period, that is, a particular art movement or a school of artists. One can also specialise in a particular medium, that is, either painting or murals or sculptures or textiles or photographs or manuscripts and paper objects. For manuscripts, one sometimes has to work in conjunction with literary and textual scholars.
Art restoration is a developing industry in India. Previously it was only handled by a few individuals in India and there were very few art galleries or museums to store art objects in the first place. With the art industry in India booming and Indian art making a name for itself worldwide, the art industry is being looked upon seriously in India. More art galleries are coming up and with it art restorers and art conservers are coming into demand. Art galleries and museums also employ art restorers and conservers to find out whether a work of art is genuine or not, that is, whether it was created during the time it claims to have been and whether the art object bears the traits of the artist who purportedly created it. Even auction houses employ art restorers and art conservers for such jobs. Museums in India are also increasingly employing art restorers and conservers to help their curators who lack specialised knowledge of handling and maintaining art objects. Libraries also employ art restorers and conservers to restore and preserve their manuscripts as well as other art objects they may have.
Art restoration courses or degrees in Fine Arts from India also make one eligible to work as art restorers in other countries. Not only is there a wide quantity of Indian art objects stored in other parts of the world and which thus require specialised knowledge about Indian art in order to be restored better but one can also specialise in non-Indian art in India and work in other countries. The prospects of art restoration are generally better in western countries but even in India, the art scenario is changing rapidly and one can take the initiative to develop it further oneself. That can be a very lucrative career choice.
The remuneration varies widely. Some institutions employ art restorers on a project-wise basis. The job may not be a regular one but based on individual projects. Private collectors also employ art restorers primarily on this basis. However, some institutes also permanently employ art restorers and pay them monthly salaries. The remuneration depends from project to project and institute to institute. Because art restoration is such a specialised task, the remuneration is generally very good. If one works abroad, then the remuneration will be excellent as well.
How and Where to find Jobs?
The two most important organizations involved in art restoration in India are the National Museum Centres and the INTACH Art Conservation Centre.
National Museum Centres
The National Museum Centres are situated at Delhi, Kolkata and Lucknow. The National Museum Centres look after their own art works and also of the state museums. They primarily work with art works in government run institutes. Private art works are only taken on for restoration and conservation if that art object is marked as one of national heritage and importance. The National Museum Centres do not charge any fee for restoration and conservation to private owners if their art objects have been selected as being of national importance.
INTACH Art Conservation Centre
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), New Delhi engages in art restoration and conservation and offers its services to both private owners as well as to state run galleries and museums. The INTACH has recently opened centres in other cities in India as well. Art restoration laboratories are springing up now with the increasing development of the art industry in India. Previously, the only art restoration laboratories were at Baroda, Kolkata and New Delhi but now there are art restoration laboratories in other cities as well.
However, most art restoration is done with private owners. The private owners can be of widely varying types - hotels, schools, colleges, libraries, old organizations like banks that were established several years ago, temples, churches, mosques, gurudwaras,