Mural Restoration: Grand Art in Public and Private Spaces

 In Architectural Conservation

Murals are unique in the art world, as they are art designed for a specific space in a public or private building. The unique combination of architecture and art gives us some of the greatest art treasures in the world, and they come with conservation and restoration challenges.

Murals are usually planned to fill a specific location in a public space, such as the interior of grand rotundas and ceilings in government buildings such as capitals and courthouses. The design is always site-specific, so mural art usually cannot be removed and displayed in other places. Depending on the method of making, the mural art can be a part of the structural wall or ceiling, such as with wet-plaster work, or painted directly onto the wall or ceiling surface, or placed on a fitted frame, such as with mosaics. The first step in mural conservation then, is to assess the structural integrity of the wall and support structures.

Decisions about how to conserve and protect a fragile mural will involve historical and artistic relevance, as well as issues related to the changing nature of public spaces. With the popularity of historical preservation and adaptive reuse, many large buildings are changing their nature with time, such as from a private to a public residence. These changes may cause a mural restoration to include different types of surface protection.

After structural integrity is assured, and plans developed for how the mural will fit into a changing space, the artwork is cleaned according to the method and materials, and the existing surface stabilised with the idea of keeping the most original art work possible. Once the existing artwork is stable, any areas with loss of image through paint flaking, cracks, or other damage are repaired in a reversible way, such as painting within the varnish layer.

Murals are particularly at risk for damage due to structural shifting in a building, and their conservation usually involves both architect and conservation specialist input. In addition, they are, by their nature as part of large public buildings such as government buildings and churches, at risk for human damage such as vandalism.

Can we assist you by evaluating a conservation project? Please contact us for more information.

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