How to care for your artwork with David Stein 

David Stein has over 30 years of experience maintaining, preserving, restoring, and conserving artworks and collections. His Sydney studio, David Stein & Co., is the largest private conservation practice specialising in Paintings Conservation in Australia and the Asia Pacific region. Here, David shares some of his wisdom… 

What general advice do you have for caring for your artworks? 

Light and humidity are the two hidden enemies of art. High light levels will contribute to adverse changes including fading and discolouration, especially more sensitive mediums such as photography, watercolours, prints and drawings and of course fabrics and textiles. Keep artworks away from damp and moisture. Unventilated damp areas can cause mould and mildew which can irreversibly damage artworks. Beware when you are moving, handling, and hanging art. For moving and hanging works of value, my general advice is to call a professional! 

Removing discoloured varnish from an artwork, at David Stein & Co.

From torn canvas and mould to foxing and stains, much can befall a work of art. When is it time to see a conservator? 

If you see anything that does not look right on the artwork, then that is the time to call a conservator. Sydney is humid and works of art can become mouldy, foxed, dusty and insect affected, particularly in the warmer months. I recommend monitoring your collection for change and if there is anything abnormal then contact a conservator. In the thirty years that I have been in private practice, technology has made advances and made life easier. You don’t have to “call” a conservator, you can email a conservator with photos in the first instance. It’s so easy to get an opinion and its free! Just don’t expect a quote, you need to have the work seen to by a conservator for that in most cases. 

How can restoration impact the value of a work? 

Generally speaking, good conservation will improve the value of an artwork. Presenting an artwork as close to the intention of the artist is a fundamental goal of the conservation profession. The other is that of reversibility. Everything we do to an artwork can be undone, now and in the future. Good conservation is about the care of the artwork that preserves its integrity and therefore its value. 

What questions should a collector ask about caring for a work before considering purchasing it? 

Condition! Always check the condition of an artwork prior to purchase. If you would like to have the confidence of an independent conservation condition report, engage a conservator for a condition check and perhaps to outline some treatment options and approximate costs. 

Could you share a particularly memorable restoration, perhaps one that has uncovered something interesting? 

I would dearly love to, but I would have to kill you first, as the saying goes. I have four decades of memorable and amazing stories, fakes and fortunes and everything in between. Everything that goes on in our wonderful conservation studio is highly confidential as you can imagine.

Learn more at David Stein & Co.

Banner Image: David Stein at work

February 2023