Covering art conservation @ home

Posted on April 06, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic may have brought the art world to a temporary halt, yet despite this global challenge nearly every major art institution has commenced with virtual art tours and one can escape from home onto online artworks from The Louvre in Paris to the Met in New York. The disruptions caused by the virus are harmful not only to people and their well-being, but also to the crucial conservation work that they do and the impact on museums will involve post-crises planning. Please follow the upcoming ICOM Webinar coming up on the 10 April 2020, which will address some of these issues,


Amid the worldwide crisis, the UP Museums are making plans to ensure that we continue to curate and conserve, as well as research and campaign for the invaluable work our staff are able to continue from home. Where possible, we are supporting staff to be committed and enthusiastic about their responsibilities and our part-time art conservator, Sandra Markgraaf is continuing conservation from a fully functional and professional home art conservation studio, known as Art Revive. She was asked a few questions from a novice point of view about what art conservation is and what it entails.


The history of paintings is the history of visual ideas expressed in material form. Art and paintings are composed of several components, made of various materials, in complex layers and it is simply not just an image on a support or within a frame. Knowledge of the materiality of art enables the conservator to understand the past, the limitations of art practices at a specific time and the material and techniques that are used. Sandra stressed that “professional art conservator requires an understanding how pigments were made, the preparing of media, adhesives and varnishes to enable a conservator to make decisions regarding the conservation of paintings”. Knowledge of the relationship of materials and methods of production is important in art conservation.


All paintings are subject to deterioration due to age, accident, or the incompatibility of materials used by the artist called an inherent vice. All works of art are produced with materials that ultimately deteriorate, no art lasts forever but our appreciation for art does. The environment in which a work of art is exhibited or stored has a significant impact on how long it will survive. Paintings kept in stable conditions can survive longer. The environmental agents that have an impact on the stability of paintings are light, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pollutants. There is science behind art conservation and the restoration of art within a museum context is the lifeblood of any art collection. art collection curated by the UP Museums contains more than 2000 artworks, paintings or works on paper which requires active conservation and over the next few months we will bring more of this art collection online to keep you posted and remember to follow our Instagram for more @upmuseums

- Author Sian Tiley-Nel & Sandra Markgraaf
Published by Nicole Hoffmann

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