The Conservation Center – A Different Approach to Art

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Tucked into a revitalized warehouse in West Town is the largest and most comprehensive private art conservation laboratory in the country: The Conservation Center.

With over 35 years of experience, they’re leaders in the field of art preservation, evolving new treatments and methods to adapt to the rapidly changing art world. Heather Becker, the CEO, has been at the helm of this operation for over 30 years.

Heather Becker, CEO of The Conservation Center

With the help of Studio Gang Architects, they turned a 19th-century warehouse — previously used to store gold — into a 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art conservation laboratory.

The warehouse turned state-of-the-art conservation studio in West Town

The conservators designed each department with the needs of individual pieces during each stage of treatment in mind. Conservators at The Center are expertly trained in the treatment of paintings, works of art on paper, photographs, textiles, murals, antique and fine furniture, rare books, frames and gilding, objects, and sculpture. With so many specialties, it can be hard to know where to begin, but the light-filled 4 th -floor laboratory is always a perfect start.

– Inside of the 4 th -floor laboratory

Pigments used by the Paintings Department, carefully organized

The Paintings Department strives to do its part to preserve paintings by using the least invasive treatments possible for each piece. Many types of damage occur to paintings including paint loss and flaking, tears, discolored varnish, degradation of previous restoration campaigns, and accumulation of layers of grime and dust.

Before treatment

[IMAGE 5.2] This stunning interior scene arrived at The Center in poor condition – damaged by fire, water, and then impact. It could no longer be displayed in its current state. 

After treatment

The Works of Art on Paper Department handles everything from photographs to rare books, historical documents, drawings and prints, and screens, to pastels, watercolors, blueprints, and scrolls. In July, they had the honor of treating a hand-painted pressboard Vienna Beef sign from the Maxwell Street Foundation. This exciting opportunity to treat a piece of Chicago history was a multi-departmental collaboration.

The Works of Art on Paper Department recently worked closely with our Custom Framing and Fabrication Department to collaborate with well-known graffiti artist, Free Humanity, on the conservation and framing of one of his pieces for a client.

Nestled into the first-floor laboratories are the Objects and Sculpture, Fine Furniture, and Antiques Frames and Gilding Departments, working so closely together that almost every project is the result of a team effort.

The warehouse, across from the laboratories, is the backbone of the company – highly skilled art handlers managing registrarial services, digital restoration, photography, museum-quality storage –always ready to head to an emergency to recover art from fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and more at a moment’s notice.

The Center is proud to provide the highest standard of care to ensure the longevity of art and heirloom collections, and to offer a peek into their corner of the art world!

One of The Conservation Center’s laboratories

All photos courtesy of The Conservation Center

More about The Conservation Center

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