The Wall Street Journal examines the rare combination of talents necessary to restore the most precious art works:
“This specialization is a real rarity,” says George Bisacca, a leading painting conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “It is in a curious spot between science, artisan skills and artistry, requiring very complicated judgment and knowledge from lots of different fields. That’s why there are so few experts.”
No more than half a dozen or so restoration specialists world-wide have the expertise for such sophisticated work, and most of them are nearing retirement. The only specialist training program for panel painting conservation, located in Florence, Italy, recently shut down. “It has created this vacuum in expertise,” says Getty Conservation Institute scientist Alan Phenix.
This art specialty is a microcosm of the crisis in lost expertise that faces many technical endeavors today, from nuclear weapons maintenance to manned space flight. Critical science and engineering skills that can be gained only through hands-on experience are disappearing as a generation of experts retire. “People talk about the learning curve,” says California Institute of Technology physicist Paul Dimotakis. “Nobody talks about the forgetting curve.”
As Art Ages, So Do the Skills to Preserve It (Wall Street Journal)