The restoration and conservation of artwork are essential for a plethora of reasons; from historical documentation, to sentimental value through to wealth management. Often, the necessity for restoration intervention is caused by circumstances that are of great emotional trauma to the owner of the artwork, such as water loss, fire or accidental damage.
When cared for suitably, with correct temperature controls, storage and maintenance, artwork can be enjoyed for hundreds of years to come, with minimal worry or concern. But what happens in the case that an artwork is not subject to one particular person’s care, is exposed to extreme weathering or even vandalism? This is often the case in the ever topical subject of street art.
Street art is defined by its tendency to be present in public spaces, often without permission. With street artists, such as Banksy, Stik and Invader, often creating works in unsolicited spaces, with a political stance or commentary on everyday society, their artwork is often in dispute – valued and protected by some, whereas despised and destroyed by others.
So what happens when individuals or organisations face this situation?
With the artwork often being created on external walls and public property, only very scarcely can it be removed for safekeeping and restoration.
It is said that the average lifespan of a piece of street art is around four weeks in London, with Banksy artwork being notorious for vandalism and theft.
In September 2019, Westminster City Council partnered with the Fine Art Restoration Company to restore and conserve a Banksy artwork that had appeared in Marble Arch on the last night of the Extinction Rebellion protests.
The piece had attracted a vast amount of public interest due to its historical and current relevance and subsequently, had incurred significant damage due to lack of protection. Our team of conservators, after carefully cleaning and rejuvenating the piece, formulated an innovative solution for its protection.
By undertaking careful cleaning of the artwork and then installing an unbreakable, UV filtered, graffiti and scratch resistant cabinet frame, the piece can now be admired by the public, without incurring damage.
We innovatively incorporated vents into the cabinet frame, so that the artwork is now protected from environmental factors and weathering, but allowing it to breathe.
We were also privileged to embark on a project of restoration of three artworks by Banksy which were created on the walls of The Arches in Argyle Street, Glasgow. The artworks, which were part of an exhibition entitled ‘Peace is Tough’ in collaboration with Jamie Reid in 2001, were painted over with grey emulsion in 2007.
Our specialist conservation team embarked on a project to carefully uncover the works by softening the emulsion paint so that it could be lifted without damaging the Banksy artwork underneath.
Street art is at the mercy of the public, whether enjoyed or defaced. There are always practical steps that can be taken to protect assets such as this if clients are lucky enough to acquire them.