Art restoration is a surprisingly entertaining field, even if you're not much of an art buff. That's me. Whenever someone starts talking about the "classics," I think they're referring to the original Robocop and Predator movies. To me, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael are famous artists second and crime-fighting anthropomorphic turtles first.
But I still love me a good art restoration story. Just look at this art dealer delicately removing varnish from an old painting. It's super satisfying to watch, even to a boorish non-appreciator of art such as myself, and it's nice to see the artistic accomplishments of humans from hundreds of years ago preserved for future generations to enjoy.
That's probably why it's so appalling, and morbidly funny, when someone ruins an old piece of art in a pitiful attempt to restore it. Like at the Church of San Miguel de Estella in Navarre, Spain.
The Parish houses a 500-year-old sculpture of Saint George riding a horse and fighting a dragon. Typical epic biblical stuff. Here's what it looked like prior to the restoration. As you can see, time has taken a toll on the paint job and there are some signs of oxidation on parts.
Now when it comes to restoring art that old, it's essential to hire a professional. This person should have a proven track record of delicately handling priceless works of art, and they should have some background in art history so they know the materials and techniques that would have been used by the original artist. There's an attention to detail and care that one must uphold to maintain the integrity of a work that dates back several hundreds of years.
But the parish decided to cut corners and selected a local art teacher for the job instead of a professional trained in art preservation. The results were less than stellar, proving you really do get what you pay for.
That's right, St. George looks just as flabbergasted by the job as everyone else who saw it the first time. The elementary-school-level paint job was panned by the local municipality's mayor, Koldo Leoz, who didn't understand why the parish didn't just ask for help from local government officials to identify and hire someone who was actually qualified for the job.
He also suggested the sculpture could have been irrevocably damaged by the artist's choice of materials for the "restoration."
"The restoration leaves much to be desired. Being 16th-century polychrome sculpture, you have to be very careful with the choice of materials, or you can lose the entire original layer."
Leoz also said the choice to restore a piece of priceless artwork shouldn't be left solely to the church; the public should have a say as well, since the sculpture is a huge part of the locale's cultural history.
"From a cultural, historical and artistic point of view, what happened is a pity," he said. "In my opinion, it’s an example of the power that churches have over the fate of cultural heritage that should be in the hands of public administration, because the vast majority of churches, and the artworks within them, have regularly received money from the citizens and we should have control over them so that this kind of thing does not happen."
People meme'd the heck out of the restoration fail, and they didn't pull any punches about how cartoonish it looked.
This one employed what looks like a Lego figurine. Honestly, it's a little hard to tell the difference. Another thought it looked a bit like French comic book hero Tintin as a cowboy.
The tragic Saint George statue isn't the first art restoration fiasco Spain has endured. You might remember the notorious "Beast Jesus" blunder that occurred back in 2012, resulting in the horrific image you see below.
This "what was she thinking?" job was performed by Cecilia Gimenez in the small town of Borja, Spain. However, even though the priceless fresco was ruined, the viral story of its "restoration" ultimately ended up benefiting Borja. Tourists lined up to visit the ruined "Ecce Homo" painting and still do to this day. Posters detailing the history behind the disaster were printed and translated into 15 different languages.
Gimenez also ultimately recovered her dignity despite the ridicule her painting received, especially after seeing how much it has benefited her hometown. "Sometimes, after seeing it for so long, I think to myself, son of mine, you are not as ugly as I thought you were in the beginning."
It wouldn't be an art-tragedy piece without mentioning another recent infamous sculpture: the bust of Cristiano Ronaldo that welcomed travelers at Madeira airport.
The artist, Emmanuel Santos, eventually redid his work and provided an updated statue that looked a little more like the soccer legend to replace his original creation that was lambasted by everyone on the internet for looking more like Sloth from The Goonies.
Santos was reportedly "very sad" about how his original work was received, especially when people asked for its removal. Turns out a bunch of other people were, too. An online petition was soon started to bring back the original Ronaldo statue back.
"We consider that the bust is more an attraction for our island today and we cannot accept in any way its replacement," the petition says.
Our generation's penchant for liking things ironically is going to pave the way for the ugliest art we've seen in centuries. I'm kind of OK with it.
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