Not every collectible gets better as they age, which is where the restoration experts come into play. The value of something such as a vehicle, furniture and even artwork doesn’t just cost you at the time of purchase; maintaining that value is as important, if not more.
“We have clients who believe in self-insurance, but they are more protected for small losses or damages,” says PJ Scott, paper restoration specialist at Bellingan Scott in Johannesburg. “They advise us that their fund would not be able to replace or restore their whole collection and all their valuables should they experience extreme loss (in other words, fire, flooding),” he continues.
“We are personally insured with Artinsure for values of collectibles up to R500 000 ($36 642). We request that when artworks are of a higher value, the client needs to advise their insurance the work is in for restoration, or we provide quotes for additional insurance while the works are in our possession,” says Scott.
A cardinal rule of conservation and restoration is that all restoration has to be reversible
He emphasises that whoever does the restoring of a prized item must be a reputable conservator and restorer with the necessary qualifications, as your collectible’s value depends on it. But value, in a restorer’s or conservator’s world, is a tricky thing to navigate, mentions Scott. “It is considered a conflict of interest for restorers to provide valuations of artworks, as we could inflate the value to persuade clients to have works restored. We, therefore, do not provide valuations.
“We refer clients to professional art valuers, or to auction houses who have specialists who can provide accurate valuations. Most insurance houses we work with have valuers they use or have in-house specialists,” Scott explains.
Restorers and conservators have to go through difficult processes to keep artworks in good condition. But what makes it strenuous is that each valuable is unique in its own right. However, restorers and conservators will look to restore the collectible to its original state or as close as possible.
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Scott lists some of the processes restorers and conservators would have to go through to maintain the value of the collectible. This includes using materials which the artist would have used, for example, producing paper pulp or old pigments to match the existing paper and pigment of the artwork; not just relining torn canvas, but trying to use smaller canvas patches that will provide correct support and strength; and, obviously, not heavily overpainting artworks to conceal damage.
“A cardinal rule of conservation and restoration is that all restoration has to be reversible. With continuous scientific developments taking place, we need to ensure that in five, 10 or 20 years, should a better restoration method be discovered and implemented, any previous restoration can be undone and reversed,” he says.
Scott stresses that it’s incredibly important to explain the various restoration methods available and why which ones will be used to brokers and clients. “Depending on the severity of the damage and how much restoration is required, it will determine if and how much the artwork or collectible will depreciate in value. The broker and insurance company will decide if it is worth restoring, or if it should be destroyed and the client paid out.”
Sometimes the piece holds too much sentimental value, says Scott, and the client would opt to restore it regardless of the decision of the insurance company. Then acquiring materials for restoration projects isn’t as difficult as you might think.
“We buy specialised materials and equipment from online conservation suppliers in the UK and US. This includes all tapes, adhesives, certain chemicals, blotting paper and cleaning cloths. We buy all other materials from Herbert Evans Art Shop in Rosebank, such as Japanese tissue paper, museum varnishes, specialised pigments (watercolours, oil and acrylic).”
There are a few things brokers need to keep in mind, says Scott. “They need to ensure professional valuers are used to correctly determine the value of the artworks, so the client is correctly insured. They need to regularly have their collections valued, as highly collectible artworks’ prices increase dramatically year on year; they need to ensure they stay correctly insured.”