I enjoyed this picture of The Getty’s Senior Paintings Conservator Ulrich Birkmaier inpainting. Look at that focus. Inpaiting is a process where a conservator repairs a damaged piece of art. This painting, Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre,” needed repairing because on Thanksgiving Day 1985 someone cut it straight from its frame in broad daylights. This story gives the detail of the bizarre theft.
This strikes me as a slightly strange concept. According to wikipedia:
traditional inpainting is performed by a trained art conservator who has carefully studied the artwork to determine the mediums and techniques used in the piece, potential risks of treatments, and ethical appropriateness of treatment.
But what about untraditional inpainting? So much of art hinges on authenticity. So it strikes me as funny that Ulrich Birkmaier can touch up this painting but most people can’t with desecrating it.
I guess my question is why. I get that this is mainly an element of training. But how much of it more ceremonial. If by luck I imparted the same strokes as Ulrich, would I be inpainting or vandalizing?
Is inpainting a consequentialist or deontological practice? Which other crafts or professions depend so much on framing?