Many are realising that maintaining works of art is both an investment and challenge

When Indian Overseas Bank sought the help of a heritage conservation firm to restore old paintings that adorned the walls of its Central Office in the city, it perhaps did not estimate the price the art works were worth.

After four months of restoration work, the 11 paintings of a Mumbai-based artist adorn the walls with a fresh look. It was only when the restorer told them that the Bank realised that the paintings were part of a priceless collection.

If art is an investment, then maintaining them is equally a challenge and many individuals and institutions are increasingly realising it. For C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, maintaining art work is something that is done round the year, given the vast collection of old paintings that beautify its walls – from Raja Ravi Varma to Rabindranath Tagore to Amrita Shergil.

“Taking care of treasure”

“The humidity level of the city and the problem of insects are some reasons why maintenance is an ongoing work at the Centre and we have employees who are trained in conservation work,” says Nanditha Krishna, Director of the Foundation, adding that “taking care of them is like looking after one's treasure.”

Conservation of art also comes at a prize. “For instance, each of the paintings of IOB would have fetched at least a lakh even without restoration,” says V. Jeyaraj, Director, Hepzibah Institute of Heritage Conservation, who worked on them. Nearly 10 paintings of the Prince of Arcot and of other collectors are some of the work the Institute has taken up.

The Government Egmore Museum also undertakes restoration work. Usually, institutions approach them.

According to V.R. Aparajitha, an art conservator in private practice, restoration has not been in the forefront until recent years when people have begun attaching sentimental value to it or see it as an investment. “I have seen people who are not very affluent but still want to restore art. The awareness is picking up,” she says.

Private art galleries such as Art World and Vinyasa Art Gallery also take up restoration work. According to art conservators, cost of the work is determined by time, treatment and effort put in. “Preserving techniques could start from Rs. 2,000 where it involves say, just changing the mounting of an art work. As the degree of damage increases, the costs might go up to a lakh,” says Ms. Aparajitha.

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