To become an art restorer, it is necessary to receive a degree in fine art, studio art, or a related field, generally with a concentration in a particular area of art to get advanced training in topics like handling textiles or restoring paintings. This work commonly requires apprenticeship after graduation to develop practical skills in the workplace. Once fully qualified, an art restorer can work for museums, galleries, and private collectors.
Members of the lay public often use the terms “art restorer” and “art conservator” interchangeably. These two careers both involve preserving and caring for art, but they are quite different. Art restorers work with the goal of restoring art to peak condition, using a variety of techniques to repair art after damage or neglect. Art conservators are interested in preserving art with minimal interference. They usually have advanced degrees like master's and doctorate degrees, and they consider the cultural history and context of the art, working to prevent further damage and to keep the art as safe as possible, but not necessarily repairing it. In a simple example, when an art restorer encounters a statue with missing limbs, new limbs might be fabricated. The art conservator would stabilize the piece, leaving the damage intact, and discuss the cultural and historic reasons for the missing extremities.
Someone who wants to become an art restorer needs training as an artisan. Art schools along with some colleges and universities provide training of the type needed by art restorers. This can include education in working with historic art pieces, repairing damage to art, using materials like those used when art was originally produced, and exploring themes and symbols used in art. People also typically study the cultures surrounding the art they are interested in, as this information can be valuable when restoring damaged artworks; understanding things like how people used color will help people restore art accurately.
People can choose areas of specialization like painting, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, and so forth, developing advanced skills for preservation and restoration. A person who wants to become an art restorer should strongly consider seeking out internships in museums and galleries to get experience handling and working with art before graduation. After a prospective art restorer graduates from college, this experience can be used in resumes to apply for restoration positions and internships.
Artistic skill is necessary to become an art restorer. In addition to understanding the cultural, historical, and social context of art to restore it as accurately as possible, people also have to be able to handle the art, replicate techniques used by the original artist, and make repairs as unobtrusively as possible. Repairs can have a significant impact on the value of artwork, and a clumsy restoration can cause irreparable damage; someone who wants to become an art restorer usually has a passion for creating art, as well as repairing it.