Konservieren und Restaurieren - ein spurenloser Vorgang?

Conservation and Restoration - A Traceless Process?


  • Christian Marty Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Zollikerstrasse 32, CH-8032 Zürich




Ageing, Conservation, Restoration, Retreatability, Reversibility


Thanks to impulses from the humanities and the natural sciences, the profession of art conservation and restoration has emancipated itself over the past century from its origins as an artisan's craft and established itself as a discipline in its own right. Preserving art and cultural monuments has ceased to refer only to preserving mere substance. Instead, through these activities, signs and traces of age have for the first time become quite consciously an integral part of an independent, completely new form of value for an object–the value of patina or simply 'the value of age'. Central to this process was the idea of 'reversibility', a concept employed by experts and laypersons alike as the ultima ratio for preserving an artwork effectively and without damage for future generations utilizing suitable methods and materials. In daily practice, reversibility has proven to be the ideal rather than the reality. With the realization that any intervention into the substance of an artwork is irreversible, the term 'retreatability' began to be developed in the 1980s. The intention here follows the line of reasoning that restoration measures on an artwork may no longer be reversible once carried out, but further treatment should be neither hampered nor rendered impossible. However, the contradiction between intervention and preservation is in effect insurmountable because not undertaking an intervention is a decision linked to a specific time and puts a further historical stamp on a monument or artwork. This means that conservation/restoration itself becomes a new factor in the historical change an artwork undergoes.






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