I’m currently watching a programme about art. In this episode they are researching a wall painting on the plaster of a bedroom in a house in Surrey. Ben Nicholson was a friend of the one-time owner and is supposedly the painter of the piece. If it is by Nicholson it will be valuable enough to justify preserving it (which probably involves removing a piece of the wall). If not, I fear it may just be destroyed. It all comes down to money. Conserving paintings and removing sections of wall is not a cheap undertaking. However, I like the detective work and the technology.
The question of attribution was finally solved by the art experts (though it was an opinion, of course, rather than fact). They believe that the painting is a joint effort between Nicholson and his mate, This brings the estimated value down from £200,000 to about £50 – 100,000. Nobody is quite sure what a joint work is worth because this is the only one known. This, fortunately, is enough to justify removing the painting.
To do this they paste tissue on the surface (using special glue and tissue), sandwich the wall between two pieces of thick plywood and cut round it. The strange thing is that although I’ve never seen it done before I could (with the exception of the special tissue) have worked out the method. All those years of messing about in poultry sheds seems to have paid off. I miss the days spent with tools and practicality – life as a shop assistant with a computer lacks an element of challenge. It’s OK trying to use sales techniques on eBay, but you never know if something sells because of your skill and knowledge or because it’s too cheap. Or just through blind chance.