Buyer’s Guide: How to Mend a Broken Art

ARTWORK MAY BE A TIMELESS ADDITION TO ANY HOME, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S NOT SUSCEPTIBLE TO WEAR AND TEAR. WRITER BRIONY DOWNES SHARES TIPS ON HOW TO BRING A DAMAGED PIECE BACK TO LIFE.

Vipoo Srivalisa, Gold Series, 2019. Porcelain & gold luster.
Photo: Andrew Barcham

FROM HOUSE GUESTS angling for a selfie to flash floods wiping out entire collections, artwork can be damaged by any number of unexpected sources. Insects, sunlight, lack of adequate packaging or a rambunctious pooch all have the potential to cause damage. We take a look at the options available for when the damaged artwork is your own.

1. CALL IN THE EXPERTS

At the first sign of damage, a helpful port of call is the artist or gallery you initially purchased the piece from. They will have the best knowledge on how to repair damaged works using the correct materials. “I always recommend the owner of the artwork get in touch with the original creator of the piece,” explains Sydney-based painter Sarah Waghorn. “Only the artist can know first-hand which products they used.”

2. DAMAGE CONTROL

A quick Google search will reveal plenty of DIY instructions on how to repair damaged art. Despite this, professional conservators are a safer option. They can provide extensive repairs on everything from water-damaged paintings to torn prints. Engaging a professional also ensures the repaired work maintains its original quality. When the damage is to a frame rather than the art within it, Sarah enlists her local art framer to replace it. Most framers will also offer repairs to wooden stretchers, broken glass and ageing matt boards.If you choose to DIY, use bubble wrap and plain paper to wrap artworks, as newsprint can leave unsightly marks. An art supply shop can provide speciality packing materials such as Glassine to place between unframed drawings and prints. For sculptures and odd-shaped objects, pieces of foam can be used to protect corners and protrusions before an item is wrapped. Neale Robinson from Artwork Transport regularly works with museums and art festivals like the Melbourne Art Fair and the Biennale of Sydney. He says that “soft packing is definitely a requirement” and suggests minimal handling of artworks. If you’re looking for an extra level of protection, companies like Pod Museum and Art Services can make custom plywood crates to fit around individual pieces.

3. PLAN AHEAD

Tack on artwork to your contents insurance or take out a new policy specific to art, making sure it covers artwork in transit. When preparing fragile art for travel, ceramic artist Vipoo Srivalisa suggests wrapping individual pieces in tissue paper and easily removable bubble wrap. Any damage must be noted in condition reports and when reselling the work. Depending on whether a damaged piece was one-of-a-kind or editioned, sometimes it will be possible to purchase a replacement through your insurance.

4. RISING FROM THE ASHES

Hearing a telltale rattle inside a package on delivery is any buyer’s worst nightmare. When faced with damage to a ceramic piece, Vipoo advises contacting a fine china restoration company. If the damage is too severe to repair, some collectors have embraced the remains as a new piece of art. “You could try to arrange all the pieces in a way that can be displayed as a deconstructed art work,” says Vipoo. “One of my collectors did that and it looks brilliant!”

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