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What is Art Condition Assessment & When Does it Apply?
March 6, '20
Art Condition Assessment

by Robert McIntosh

March 6, '20

What is Art Condition Assessment & When Does it Apply?



Art condition assessments are performed for a variety of reasons. Still, all of them have to do with deciding about the specific status of an individual piece or a collection of artwork pieces. Individual owners and private collectors will often have assessments conducted on their collection of artwork, and some public facilities such as museums might also want to find out the precise condition of its artwork. Below you'll find out more about art condition assessments and why people, art conservationist programs, and organizations have them performed routinely.

What is An Art Condition Assessment?

An art condition assessment is an evaluation that can provide some very useful information about the present status of any piece of artwork. It is generally undertaken for the purpose of assessing whether there are any crucial issues requiring attention immediately, or if steps need to be taken to prevent the potential problems from occurring.

These kinds of condition assessments are usually conducted by art conservators, since they are trained to carry out such assessments, and they will have the knowledge and expertise to be able to identify potential problem areas. It is possible, however, that less qualified individuals will conduct at least preliminary assessments or basic assessments prior to a fuller evaluation conducted by an art conservator.

While art condition assessments are generally performed on an entire collection of artwork, single pieces can undergo art condition assessments as well. The first step in preparing for an evaluation of your collection would be to compile a complete list of every piece in the collection, so that it can be accurately evaluated, and not overlooked during the process.

Consider an Art Condition Assessment

When Should I Consider an Art Condition Assessment?

There are several times when it is highly advantageous to conduct an art condition assessment, either of an individual piece or an entire collection. The owner of an art collection may wish to conduct an art condition assessment at virtually any point in time, to gain an understanding of the overall status of all pieces in the collection.

It's also a common practice to perform an assessment immediately before conservation treatments, as well as for situations where a collection will be involved in a traveling exhibition. Before items leave their current home, documentation should be prepared on their current condition, so that any issues incurred while traveling can be compared to the baseline assessment.

This is especially true when a collection will be visiting several different venues because the chance for mishandling or accidents increases significantly. It's also a standard practice to conduct an art condition assessment before applying for a loan for which the collection will provide collateral, or when you are considering making a sale of an individual piece, or an entire collection. The new owner will undoubtedly want an art condition assessment of any piece or collection being purchased.

Another instance where art condition assessments are generally performed is when pieces in the collection are being accessioned because this way, you'll have a record of their original condition, which can be compared with future condition reports. Whenever a museum or gallery is preparing conservation plans for its collection, it will often perform art condition assessments as a way of identifying any conservation needs by individual pieces, as well as to discover any issues which might be related to storage or display environments.

Types of Work That Need an Assessment

The kinds of artwork that typically require an art condition assessment include a wide variety of pieces and collections. For instance, some individual pieces which need some care might require a full evaluation so that the extent of any damage is understood. So a plan can be formulated for restoration.

It's also fairly common for a full collection to be assessed by a museum or a historical Society when it wishes to determine the present condition of a broad collection of artwork. In that same vein, it is sometimes deemed appropriate by authorities and officials to conduct an art condition assessment on public art collections or individual pieces of public art. This is for the benefit of the public at large, rather than in the interest of any specific organization or individual.

Art Condition Deteriorated

Art Work Conditions

When an art condition assessment is performed, a great deal of detail will be gathered and will be noted on a specific form that is used for the purpose. However, when the general condition is being discussed of a particular piece, it will fall into one of several categories, which will quickly convey the status of the piece.

The lowest of these categories is Deteriorated, which indicates that significant degradation has occurred with a piece of artwork. The Poor condition likewise suggests that some level of deterioration has occurred, but that damage is not as severe as the actual Deteriorated category. Artwork whose status falls into the Fair category means that the piece is considered to be in generally decent condition, but could stand some touch-up work or restoration activity.

Artwork considered to be in Good condition means that there are very few issues associated with the piece and that it is in no particular danger of deterioration. Any artwork considered to be in Excellent condition has no problems whatsoever and is considered to be in mint condition, almost as good as the day it was created.

Treatment Recommendations

Treatment Recommendations

Also, part of any art condition assessment is a general recommendation for treatment for any piece which is deemed to have incurred some level of damage requiring restoration or touch-up. When a treatment recommendation falls into the High category, that means either that significant loss has already occurred, or that there is a danger of substantial loss arising in the near future.

The Medium category indicates that some level of deterioration has already occurred and that there is a danger for additional degradation to be sustained in the future. Any artwork which receives a treatment recommendation of Low - means that the artwork is in good condition and is in no immediate danger of sustaining damage.

While these treatment recommendations are not very detailed or comprehensive, they are useful to convey the status of an individual piece quickly, so that artwork considered to be at higher risk of deterioration can be given priority when conservation efforts begin.

Booking a Condition Assessment

If you're a person associated with a museum or a historical society that has a collection of artwork, or even if you're an individual with a private collection, you may want to consider having an art condition assessment performed on your collection. You must know what the actual condition of your collection is, especially if you plan to sell any of the pieces, or if you plan to use them as collateral to secure a loan. When you're ready to perform an assessment, contact us at B.R. Howard so that our team of conservators can visit your location and deliver an accurate estimate of your artwork condition.

About author Robert McIntosh was born 1965 in Amsterdam, North Holland. He studied at Royal College of Art in South Kensington. Educated in England and the United States. Lives in Amsterdam. Has also lived in Russia. He works mainly with oil paintings and sculptures and is interested only in authentic and genuine art. Modern Art. Contemporary Art. He writes extensively on abstract art.

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