What is Art Conservation?

Conservator and art restorer Vlad Zhitomirsky studies a work of art similar to a curator. Vlad and his business partner, Mikhail Matveyev, begin by determining the forms’ various origins and histories. They determine what construction techniques were used.  They evaluate the condition of each section of the art work examining every square inch, inside and out, for surface integrity and decay.

With our Gorilla, Vlad and Mikhail also try to determine how many different kinds of chrome bumpers were used by the artist John Kearney. Each chrome bumper may have a different chrome process depending on maker and year made.

Restoration of the outdoor sculpture Gorilla, inside and out, means removing all rust, flaking chrome, cleaning, applying several chemical treatments, and final cleaning, waxing, and polishing, all involving the investment of many hours of sweat equity.

Vlad’s restoration also requires knowledge and experience of metallurgy, chemistry, welding, art history, science, studio art, and a fundamental understanding of the history of automobile bumpers. Chrome bumpers were phased out in the early 1970s.

Their careful and painstaking conservation processes restores art works for future generations.

The photos detail some of Vlad and Mikhail’s procedures and techniques.

Conservation preserves a community’s cultural heritage. Vlad’s work on GorillaBull, and Kimball are part of Cedarhurst’s Kimball’s Habitat, our long-range plan renovating the Goldman-Kuenz Sculpture Park. Kimball has become a community symbol of the museum and sculpture park.

Conservation in general has many aspects to it including examination, documentation, treatment, preventive care and maintenance, all supported by curatorial research and education.

All conservators follow clear ethical obligations when preserving a community’s cultural heritage. Their work reflects expertise, professionalism, and commitment.

The conservators’ work is often not realized by the many visitors who will see, but not know, their work. This is as it should be. The reward comes in the generations of children who will grow up and bring their own children to see the parents’ favorite works of art. This family sharing is one of the values of a community’s cultural heritage that has been preserved.