In this paper, I consider some implications of Peter Lamarque’s ontology of art for the theory of artworks’ restoration and conservation. My basic assumption is that the way we conceive of an artwork’s identity impinges directly on the actions that are taken with regard to the conservation of the work. For example, if we take the work to coincide with the physical object touched by the artist, even the smallest intervention will alter what “the artist made”. Conversely, if we take the work to coincide with an a-temporal image-type contingently embodied in a material support, restoring it can make it look closer to what “the artist made”. None of these options, I argue, is fully satisfying, because neither is able to take into account the fundamental reason why we are concerned with conserving artworks: the fact that, as Lamarque (2010, p.4) suggests, these are not merely phys-ical objects, nor simply ideal images, but rather culturally emerging objects, whose existence depends on appropriate social conditions. Conceiving artworks as symbols of webs of collective meanings (Sagoff 1981) implies that conservators should focus more on preserving a work’s collective values than the object’s hypothetical original condition. This, I contend, doesn’t mean that care for physical integrity should be ruled out, but only that this form of preservation is insufficient if the artwork’s cultural significance is not similarly taken into consideration.
Giombini, L. (2019). Restoring the Work, Restoring the Object. AESTHETICA. PRE-PRINT, 111, 75-84.