Conserving A Family Heirloom

 A portion of the damaged frame

A portion of the damaged frame

While the majority of our clients are corporate entities with large collections, we also collaborate with a select group of private clients to assist with their personal art collections. A recent connection from a previous project reached out to us to discuss a number of updates needed for their artwork. After a few conversations, we met with the client in their home to reappraise their collection and look into potential acquisition options.

While reviewing the artwork, we were immediately drawn to a painting in the living room that looked like it had a story behind it. Hanging above the fireplace mantel, this traditional oil painting depicted a lively scene with a mother and child, who seemed to be dancing in a kitchen. An impressive, ornate frame that expanded out from the canvas encompassed the painting. The artwork, while stunning, seemed to have suffered a bit from age and had a dim surface over the composition. The frame, too, was a bit worse for wear with one of the intricate ornaments snapped off and sitting next to the painting. The frame’s gold foil seemed a bit dull and chipped.

Our client told us that the painting was a family heirloom, collected by his grandfather, who immigrated to the United States at 13 years old. A beautiful work of art that was clearly much beloved, we were quick to suggest that conservation help enliven the painting again. Painting restoration is a great option for protecting an artwork over time. You can read more about artwork restoration and conservation here.

The Conservation Process

 The newly conserved painting

The newly conserved painting

We were delighted to bring the painting and frame to a local and well-established conservation firm. A family business, it seemed especially fitting for revitalizing a family heirloom. The skilled conservator first stabilized areas where the paint had cracked. The surface of the painting was then cleaned, removing dust as well as an older layer of varnish. A few small areas were retouched with paint specifically formulated for restoration efforts. Once this phase was complete, a thin layer of archival, reversible varnish was applied to the surface of the painting. This specific type includes a layer of UV protection, which helps to preserve the colors in the artwork over time. Reapplication of varnish enhances the details of a painting, illuminating delicate brushwork and subtle changes in color. This process can make artwork look brand new again.

The frame was repaired as well. The conservator was able to reattach the broken ornamentation and reapply the gold pigment. By the time the work was complete, the artwork looked like it had traveled back in time. After reinstalling it back above the mantle, the client was able to enjoy his artwork and connection to his family’s history.  

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Sourcing Artful Design

 A recent project in a Bank featured Cody Hudson paintings.

A recent project in a Bank featured Cody Hudson paintings.

As art consultants, we work hard to serve any art-related need a client may present to us. While much of our role involves advising on which artworks a client should purchase, we also help provide visual elements that may fall outside the definition of “fine art”. This could involve sourcing functional objects like furniture, fabrics, or accessories for a dining area that still require an artful touch.

 A tea towel designed by Cody Hudson for Norden Goods.

A tea towel designed by Cody Hudson for Norden Goods.

Artists as Designers

Many artists use their creativity in a variety of fields, and can offer unique visual options outside of their fine art practice. Chicago artist Cody Hudson is an iconic example of a visual renaissance man. His fine artwork practice includes paintings on linen, steel sculptures, and screenprints. Outside the gallery context, he has also collaborated on graphic design for Target and Warby Parker, and partnered with Nike to design promotional materials and running shoes for the 2012 Chicago Marathon.

Art in Everyday Objects

Translating fine art principles into functional objects can elevate the overall experience of an environment; seeing how an artist’s mind approaches design can have a powerful impact. It presents an opportunity to connect to artwork in a new way. Having artwork on the wall adjacent to artist-designed accessories offers a chance to embrace the client’s art collection in alternate media, creating a dynamic dialogue between fine art and design in their space.

Collaborating with Interior Decorators and Architectural Designers

Many decorative and design-based projects require professionals beyond our immediate area of expertise, which is why we love to partner with interior decorators and architectural designers. Interior decorators bring a wealth of knowledge about the details needed to make a space visually cohesive, and artwork complements that. Occasionally recommending artist-designed details helps blend the vision of the interior decorators with the fine art collection connected to that space.

Similarly, architectural designers have extensive knowledge about how a person navigates through space and the structural components needed to execute the visual design of a space. We work closely with these designers to select artwork that balances the visual elements they’ve included, ensuring that all elements are harmonious and that the visual intent is clear. During these types of projects we’ll review furniture textures and color, materials used throughout a space, and aspirational goals of the client to best determine what artwork to recommend for the project. For example, clients with a crisp, modern design sense may benefit from artwork with organic texture, such as a wood sculpture, to add a warm element that balances their cool aesthetic.

Supporting artists who work in multiple visual fields provides a creative roadmap to make artwork accessible in non-traditional ways. It can also offer an interesting layer to the story of an art collection; artwork can appear in furniture design, textiles, and accessories as small visual clues that add a layer of interest to the experience of a place.  

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Art Conservation

 National Portrait Gallery, London

National Portrait Gallery, London

While we absolutely hate to see it, damaged artwork it is a reality that we encounter from time to time. Whether it is a torn painting, a broken frame, or a dusty dirty textile, artwork can be greatly susceptible to damage if not properly protected, stored or shipped (check out our recommendations for treating your objects with care here). Luckily, we have relationships with top level art conservators that help our clients navigate these situations. 

What is the purpose of art conservation?

Art and object conservation refers to the scientific practice and profession of preserving artwork and artifacts from deterioration and repairing damage that has occurred. The primary aim of art conservation is to stabilize the work from further damage while retaining the maximum amount of original material, and secondary is to improve the appearance of the work of art. Art conservators use precise techniques to clean, repair, reassemble and at times restore works of art that have been damaged from time, environment stresses or accidents. Conservators also employ techniques for preventative conservation and scientific technology such as x-ray imaging to study artwork. 

What is the difference between conservation, restoration and preservation? 

The Art Conservator's Alliance explains these terms in detail:

"Art conservation includes principles and practices of technical examination, documentation, and treatment for objects of material culture. The intention of art conservation is to improve the condition of an artifact by stabilizing physical condition problems and addressing surface disfigurement arising from deterioration and/or damage. In doing so, the art conservator strives to retain as much original material as possible and to employ the best quality materials and the most carefully considered methods available."

"At times a conservation treatment also requires restoration, which is defined as the preparation and incorporation of replacement parts and surface finishes (i.e. 'compensation for losses') to allow proper visual interpretation of an art object and to recapture an acceptable esthetic appearance..."

"Another often-used term is preservation, which encompasses all of the varied activities involved in preventing damage and reducing the rate of deterioration for art objects, collections, and structures."

http://www.artconservatorsalliance.com/what_is.html

Want to learn more?

Here is a great link to a glossary of conservation terms compiled by the Smithsonian Institute:  https://www.si.edu/mci/english/learn_more/taking_care/painting_glossary.html

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EXPO Chicago - A Week In Review

 Gladys Nilsson at Garth Greenan Gallery’s booth at EXPO Chicago

Gladys Nilsson at Garth Greenan Gallery’s booth at EXPO Chicago

We are still recovering from a busy September here in the office. The end of the year is always a race, but the addition of Chicago's premiere art fair, Expo Chicago, always makes things that much more exciting. Art fairs are a great opportunity for art consultants to take in an extensive array of artwork from a vast network of national and international galleries in a relatively short amount of time. Additionally, we welcome any opportunity to see art in person and connect with its makers and purveyors, making this close-to-home option a must on our list.

WHAT IS VERNISSAGE?

 DeGroot Fine Art at Vernissage

DeGroot Fine Art at Vernissage

The art season in Chicago opens in early September with many top-notch shows in the galleries around town leading up to the night of Expo Chicago or “Vernissage” as it is referred to in their programming. This term simply means a private viewing of paintings before public exhibition. This event is heavily attended, and the people-watching is as interesting as the artwork. That said, it is hard to fully perceive what is being exhibited behind the throngs of people, so it is important to strategize how and when you will be best able to take things in.

PROFESSIONAL PREVIEW

Every year I make sure to attend the professional preview before the fair opens for Vernissage. During this time I was able to take some quick snapshot reminders with my camera and write notes down of those pieces of particular interest. I use these notes to flag and quickly communicate artwork options for our private and corporate clients and get a head-start on any acquisitions. This year, I was focused on new prints, potential acquisitions for two different homes in Evanston and Lincoln Park, and executive level artwork for corporate clients.

 Alex Katz at Richard Gray Gallery’s booth at EXPO

Alex Katz at Richard Gray Gallery’s booth at EXPO

PRIVATE TOURS FOR CLIENTS

This year DeGroot Fine Art was asked by Expo Chicago to give a private tour for the Northern Trust V.I.P. guests the morning before the fair opened to the public. Our Project Manager, Julia Sobieraj, donned a microphone headset and toured through the fair with a group of about 25 executives, highlighting artwork from locally relevant artists of note, including: Gladys Nilsson, Alex Katz, Judy Ledgerwood, Celeste Rapone, and Stephen Eichhorn. We were honored to be included in their programming and welcomed the chance to meet individuals with a mutual interest in fine art. 

After the tour, there was plenty of time the rest of the weekend to slowly take in the fair's offerings. We always plan to review any fair at least twice, as observing so much can be overwhelming at first. It is always advantageous to use fresh eyes in another round the bend. To see more of our top picks from this fair, check out our Aesthetics page on the website for the affiliated post. We are often tasked with being the eyes and ears of our clients for fairs such as Expo Chicago, but in addition to this service and offering exclusive invitations to our clientele, we also walk individuals around at their request to personally guide their experience custom to their interests.

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All About Printmaking

The art of printmaking is comprised of a variety of techniques and materials and has ancient roots in many cultures. A discipline central to the history of art as well as contemporary art, we encounter fine art prints in many--if not most--of our clients' corporate and private collections, and we often get questions about the types, care and terminology surrounding the field of printmaking. While printmaking is an incredibly historic, diverse and deep field of study that can't be summarized in one blog post, here are some responses and resources addressing just a few of the questions we receive the most. 

What is a print? 

The Tate Modern website defines a print as "...an impression made by any method involving transfer from one surface to another." The image is created when ink is transferred onto paper, cloth, or another surface using one of a variety of materials and methods. A printed impression can be unique (monoprint/ monotype) or part of a limited edition of prints. 

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/print

What types of prints are there? 

Printmakers use many techniques and often combine techniques to achieve their desired impression. The most common types of printing techniques we encounter are Lithography, Intaglio, Relief, Screenprinting and Digital printing. Within these broad categories are a plethora of techniques and materials. 

You can find some great explanations and examples of different printmaking techniques here: http://www.paceprints.com/techniques

Is a print a reproduction or an original work of art?

Fine art prints are original works of art created using methods and techniques of printmaking. A limited edition results from an artist using the same plate or block to create multiple identical impressions of the same image, and each impression is recorded with an edition number.  

A print is not a reproduction of an existing painting or drawing. 

How should I display or store my print? 

Because many prints are printed with ink on paper, great care should be taken in storing and displaying prints. To prevent common conservation issues such as paper deterioration, discoloration, buckling and fading, prints should always be stored and displayed in archival, acid-free materials, with protection from excess humidity and ultraviolet light. Learn more about our recommendations for storing and displaying artwork here.

What do the numbers and markings on my print mean?

Along with signing and titling their prints, artists mark their prints in pencil with an edition number. Prints are labeled with the impression number and a slash indicating the total number of prints in the edition (ie. 5/10). There are other markings designating the type of impression in an edition, such as A/P (Artist's Proof), B.A.T (Bon a Tirer) or T/P (Trial Proof).

Here is a helpful link explaining different conventions artists use to label a print as well as common printmaking terminology. https://www.nga.gov/gemini/glossary.htm

Happy collecting! 

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