Guide 103 - Condition of the Artwork

February 25, 2019

Guide 103 - Condition of the Artwork

The spectrum of artworks varies from "Perfect Condition" to "Fragmentary condition".
***
Rephrasing what Leo Tolstoy said in Anna Karenina - Happy Families are all happy in the same way but unhappy families are each unhappy in a unique way.
In the same way - perfect condition antiques are perfect in the same way but imperfections arise due to many diverse reasons.
**
In the case of Textiles we find
- tears
- stains
- frayed threads
- incomplete or missing threads
- fading
- missing embellishments
- color run
- weakened base cloth
and more
***
In Jewelry imperfections may be in the form of
- low metal grade
- dents
- missing bits
- breakage
- dysfunctional fasteners
and more
***
In the case of paintings and manuscripts we see imperfections as
- frayed edges
- tears
- water stains
- fading
- chipping
and more
In paintings and manuscripts, as the craft of painting is not as complex as the craft of weaving, fakes are fairly common and one must study originals in one's hand to be able to distinguish between fakes and originals.
 
***
The nature and the extent of the condition problem leads us to the possibilities of repairs. And sometimes expert repairs can not only cosmetically salvage the piece for our visual pleasure but also reinforce it and extend its life.
***
Again we need to ask how important is condition to us?
The answer to this must be given by each person individually. Some people do not mind fragmentary condition at all while others are a bit more cautious about condition.
I personally avoid fragments unless there is something so superlative in the piece that I am able to overlook the condition issues. For me today, a mediocre piece with condition issues will not make it into the door no matter how good the price is. But this attitude has come after a few poor choices.
***
Having said that, there are certain categories like Tampan Ship Cloths where I am personally suspicious of 'perfect condition' pieces. Knowing the history I know that this is highly improbably and if a perfect condition Tampan arrives at my door, it will be subject to more scrutiny than another with poor condition.
Condition therefore must be seen within the context of the category knowledge.
***
But, at the end of the day, the single factor that condition affects is "saleability" -  so if your intent is to frame it and enjoy it then just buy the piece you love and ignore the condition.  If however you intend it as an investment then condition will play a role in transferring it forward in the future.
***