How to Find a Good Art Restoration Service Near Me

Arts and cultural economic activity accounted for over $919 billion of the United State's current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, with public cultural institutions, including art museums and galleries contributing more than $113 billion to this figure. In addition to being a good form of investment, artworks have several other benefits, such as improving the aesthetic appeal of spaces, evoking strong emotional responses, and improving mental health. However, over time, these artworks can get damaged or succumb to natural wear and tear. A good art restoration service near you can expertly repair deterioration and damages to an artwork and help you to retain its financial or sentimental value.

Without the right tools and knowledge, an attempt to restore your artwork can lead to disastrous and even potentially harmful results. In 2019 alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 20 non-fatal occupational injuries amongst art conservators and restorers. Therefore, hiring a competent, qualified, and professional art conservator is central to a hitch-free restoration of your artwork. To ensure an art conservator is competent and qualified enough to handle the job, you should ask the following questions:

  1. Are You Licensed, Registered, or Certified?

    In the United States, there are no state-level licensing requirements to operate as an art conservator. Art conservators are typically qualified to work after obtaining a master's degree in art conservation or any related field such as studio art. While states do not issue licenses, some counties, cities, and municipalities may require art conservators to satisfy specific requirements before qualifying to handle certain types of artworks, such as county museum artworks or specific public artworks. Examples of such counties and cities include Los Angeles County in California and Douglasville City in Georgia. To verify whether an art conservator has complied with any requirements in your area of residence, you can contact your local arts and culture department.

    Since art conservators are not required to obtain a license before practicing, it is crucial to take extra steps to ensure the qualifications and expertise of an art conservator before hiring one. In doing this, it is highly recommended that you hire an art conservator who is a registered member of a nationally recognized art conservation institute, such as the American Institute for Conservation or the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. These institutes typically offer their members several opportunities to develop their knowledge and expertise on art conservation. Such opportunities include training programs, professional workshops, and networking opportunities. While institute membership is usually not mandatory, the membership benefits expose art conservators to better conservation trends and help them stay abreast of advancements in the art conservation industry. Besides improving their members' knowledge and expertise, these nationally recognized institutes also have codes of conduct and professional ethics that all members must follow. Therefore, hiring an art conservator who is a member of an art conservation institute reduces your chances of receiving a poor or unprofessional service delivery. You can find out if an art conservator belongs to an art conservation institute by asking the art conservator and further contacting any mentioned institute to confirm the conservator's membership.

  2. How Much Does an Art Restoration Cost?

    Due to the complexities typically involved, the cost for an art restoration varies widely and can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Different factors that influence the exact price of art restoration include the size of the artwork, the extent of damage, the artwork's condition, the estimated time for completing the art restoration, and your location. Taking these factors into consideration, estimates for an art restoration in the United States range between $800 and $10,000.

    As you budget for your art restoration, you can reduce your overall expenses by doing any of the following:

    • Contact your insurance service provider: Most insurance service providers have art insurance policies covering potential damages to artworks. In some cases, a home insurance policy may also include the protection of artworks in the home against specific damages such as fire outbreaks or natural disasters. Therefore, if you have an art insurance policy or have a policy coverage for where the art is stored, such as home or office insurance coverage, you can contact your insurance service provider to determine the extent to which your artwork is insured. With insured artworks, the insurance company either pays the full fee for restoration or contributes substantially.
    • Taking advantage of available discounts: Some art conservators or art conservation centers offer some form of discount that can help reduce the overall cost for your art restoration. For example, art conservators typically charge a consultation fee for a brief examination of your artwork's condition and to determine the extent of any damage or deterioration on the artwork. However, some art conservators or conservation centers offer such consultations for free or at a discounted rate. Other discounts include free transportation of your artwork from its storage point to the art conservator's studio. Therefore, before booking the services of an art conservator or art conservation center near you, it is a good idea to ask if they offer any discounts and take advantage of anyone available.

What Are Common Art Restoration Expenses?

The average labor charge for restoring an artwork is between $150 and $450 per hour, depending on the expertise, experience, and reputation of the art conservator and your location. However, besides these labor charges, there are other common expenses associated with art restorations, and they include:

  • Consultation fees: For an initial assessment of your artwork, you need to consult an art conservator or conservation center. Art conservators or conservation centers typically bill a flat fee for their consultation services, ranging between $80 - $200 for the initial assessment.
  • Assessment fees: Besides the consultation, which involves a brief assessment of your artwork, art conservators or art conservation centers perform further intricate assessment procedures on artworks to clearly identify any less obvious damages and figure out the best way to restore the artwork. An example of these assessment procedures is x-ray assessments. Whichever assessment procedure is used, art conservators or art conservation centers typically bill a flat fee for this, and it costs anywhere between $100 - $450 per assessment.
  • Art transportation charges: In situations where the art conservator or art conservation center must arrange for the transportation of a damaged artwork from its primary location to their studio, you will be charged for the trip and any associated costs. Such associated costs include costs for putting in place any protective measures for the safety of the artwork pre-transit and during transit.
  • Storage costs: In cases where an art restoration process is complete, and you fail to pick up the artwork at the communicated date, the art conservator or art conservation center will hold on to the artwork for safekeeping and bill you for storage costs.

Based on your billing arrangement with your art conservator, you may be charged an initial retainer fee from which these costs will be subsequently deducted, or you may be billed separately as the need arises. It is a good idea to discuss with your art conservator and develop a convenient payment structure for both of you. You should also ensure to request invoices, receipts, and any other financial documentation related to payments for your art conservator's services. These are important for record-keeping purposes.

Who Will Do the Work?

It is crucial to know who will handle your art restoration and whether the person is qualified. Usually, art conservators that are self-employed perform the art restoration of their clients personally. However, they may delegate some less intricate aspects to their assistants. Therefore, before hiring an art conservator, it is a good idea to ask whether assistants will be involved in your art restoration and how qualified each assistant is. On the other hand, art conservation centers typically have multiple art conservation experts. When you hire the services of an art conservation center, your art restoration will likely be handled by various art conservators. In such an instance, you can ask the art conservation center to furnish you with the credentials of each art conservator that will be assigned to restore your artwork to ensure they are qualified. Such credentials include certifications, years of experience, details on previous artwork that they may have restored, and any other information that can help show that the art conservator in question is duly qualified.

What Qualifications Should an Art Conservator Have?

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 11,930 art conservators and museum workers are currently practicing across the country. For art conservators, the typical entry-level education qualification is a master's degree in art conservation. Besides educational qualifications, these professionals also develop their specialized knowledge and expertise by taking advantage of apprenticeship opportunities and participating in training programs organized by nationally recognized art conservation institutes like the American Institute for Conservation. Art conservators also receive certifications when they pass the assessments associated with some of these training programs. These certificates typically show that an art conservator has acquired additional knowledge in a specialized area of art restoration, thereby indicating they are likely more competent than their non-certified colleagues. Reading research publications and constant practice are other ways through which art conservators develop their knowledge and expertise.

Will You Provide References?

In addition to any educational or professional qualifications, you should also ensure that an art conservator can deliver a good service. One way of ensuring this is by asking the art conservator to provide references from previous clients. Such references generally help assess other crucial considerations such as the art conservator's professionalism, work ethic, and whether they have a track record of satisfactory art restorations. If you are aware of the type of artwork you own, it is ideal to ask the art conservator to provide references from clients with similar artwork. For example, if you want to restore oil on canvas painting, you should ask for references from previous clients with oil on canvas painting. This way, you can further assess an art conservator's skill to provide a satisfactory service for your specific type of artwork. If an art conservator does not have many previous clients with your type of artwork, you should consider checking out more experienced art conservators near you before making your decision.

In addition to asking an art conservator to provide references from previous clients, you can also visit review platforms such as Better Business Bureau, Google Review, and Yelp. These platforms have reviews from different customers that have hired the services of an art conservator or art conservation center and they also have rating systems that you can utilize to find a good art conservator near you.

Finally, you can contact art conservation organizations for professional art conservators near you to handle your art restoration projects. For example, the American Institute for Conservation has an online referral page through which you can find professional art conservators by location, art specialization, name, and other advanced search methods. Note that when you find an art conservator through any of these organizations, you should also ask to be provided with references from previous clients so that you can better assess the conservator's competence.

Quick Facts about the Art Conservators and Restorers

2020 Median Pay
$52,140 per year, $25.07 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education
A master's degree for art conservators
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
On-the-job Training
Number of Jobs, 2019
Job Outlook, 2019-29
11% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Expert Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Art Restoration

What Is the Goal of Art Restoration?

The goal of art restoration is to repair artworks that have been altered or distorted due to damages, aging, or negligent or wrongful handling. Art restoration is primarily an attempt to return artworks, as closely as possible, to their original appearance without including any element, patterns, or addition that were not part of the artist or sculptor's initial work.

How Often Do Paintings Need to Be Restored?

Paintings typically need to be restored when they begin to suffer deterioration or when they are damaged in any way. Deterioration can be due to the painting's aging or improper handling and storage. For example, exposing a paper painting to direct sunlight or storing it under high heat conditions can make the colors fade faster than usual. In such an instance, when the painting's colors begin to fade, it will need to be restored.

Does Restoration Affect the Value of a Painting?

Restoration may or may not affect the value of a painting. When the restoration is done correctly, it mostly does not affect the value of the painting. On the other hand, when the restoration is poorly done or alters the artwork's original appearance, it is likely to affect the value of the painting negatively. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that anyone handling the restoration of your artwork is qualified and competent so that the damage of the artwork is not worsened.

What Is the Difference Between Art Conservation and Restoration?

The fundamental difference between art conservation and restoration is their purpose. Art conservation aims to put in place measures to preserve an original artwork and make it less prone to deterioration. In some cases, conservation may include restoration. Such cases include when a part of an artwork is deteriorating faster than other parts. To preserve the whole artwork, the deteriorating or damaged part will first be restored. Since conservation may also include restoration, most art conservators are also trained in the processes and methods of art restoration and can practice as art restorers. On the other hand, restoration aims to repair an artwork that has suffered damage or deterioration and return it to its original appearance. Restoration focuses strictly on repair, as opposed to conservation, which can involve preserving and repairing artworks.

What Processes Cause Damage to Artwork?

Besides wilful damage, some other processes and conditions can cause damage to an artwork. These include poor handling and improper storage. For example, placing artwork in the open exposes it to insects, dust, and moisture, all of which are capable of causing damage to the artwork or negatively altering its original appearance. It is a good idea to consult a qualified art conservator on the best way to preserve your artwork.

How Do I Know If My Art or Heirloom Is worth Restoring?

An artwork is worth restoring if it has a high monetary value or if you have a sentimental attachment to it. A sentimental attachment is usually subjective, and only you can determine whether the sentiment you feel towards the artwork is worth spending money to restore it. On the other hand, the value of your artwork in the art industry is not based on a subjective attachment but an objective valuation. To know if your artwork is valuable enough and whether restoring it will be a good financial investment, you should consult a qualified or accredited appraiser.

How Long Should an Art Restoration Last, Is It Permanent or Reversible?

The principle of reversibility is a crucial aspect of art restoration. Attempts to restore artworks are supposed to be reversible since restoration aims to ensure that the original appearance of an artwork is not altered. Therefore, while a restoration will typically last several years, it is not a permanent procedure.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Artwork Restored?

The length of time needed to restore an artwork depends on the artwork's condition, the size of the artwork, and the extent of damage or deterioration. Restoring an artwork can take anywhere between four weeks to 16 weeks or more. After some assessment of your artwork, an art conservator or conservation center will typically give you an estimated restoration time and notify you if the restoration will be quicker or take longer to complete.