The Maestro of Mold looks intimidating, but believe me, you want him in your corner. That’s because to combat mold, you have to be near to a villain superhero to get the job done properly. Ron Lindholm, owner of Art Rescue out of Dennis, MA, is just that. A picture framer for over 40 years, he got his start when he apprenticed for 15 years with a painting conservator in art restoration. Primarily restoring oil paintings, Lindholm became interested in repairing antique frames with his self-developed techniques, which include recreating original finishes.
His interest in art expanded to paper restoration and paper conservation. Lindholm began realizing that with any disaster-impacted artwork, the work is often not treated and eventually ends up going to a local framer who may or may not be skilled in mold and damage; sometimes repairable, and other times too far gone. Much of the work he sees is damage due to fire, flood and natural disaster. About four years ago, he formed Art Rescue as a bridge between his main business, Cape Cod Picture Framing, and a growing interest of conservators, restorers, and framers. He recognizes that framing is such an integral part of the whole piece of art.
In the United States, restoration work falls under conservation and preservation. Two major camps exist, that of the private conservationists and that of the institutional (often academic) conservators. The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) is a group Lindholm looks to as a gauge for existing and future operations. His company adheres to the standards and ethical guidelines of the governing board.
Lindholm shared that like most framers, work is primarily local. However when Hurricane Sandy hit and the Hudson River water flooded Chelsea galleries, artworks were left with ugly brown staining. Art Rescue was shipped 400 paintings two months after the disaster and Lindholm was given the unbelievably daunting task of mold remediation. He employed a special fumigation process known as Atomic Fumigation, a process he developed during the days a former gas process was used. Atomic Fumigation was fully developed and processed when AIC incorporated it (and some of its offshoots) into best practices. Of the artworks he received, he is proud to say he was able to completely recover 98 percent.
The mold remediation steps are complex and intricate. First, you have to kill the mold spores. Mold is your enemy because it consumes the host and will devour the host structure. Then you have to disassemble the work and dry it out. Then you must control the environmental temperature and humidity to prevent mold from starting to re-grow. Then you treat each artwork individually in fumigation where humidity and temperature are always key. Take a little break and then return to the work to eliminate any smoke from the artwork or any other damage. One must also always be continually evaluating the potential for mold’s future damage, as mold doesn’t just die, it can have damaging effects after the fact. If you think of it, any fire normally includes damage from the water and compounds out of a fire hose, and these all lead to mold too.
Lindholm points back to the AIC. On the institutional front, he sees an emerging movement to rescue artworks not primarily damaged by natural disaster, rather that damaged by humans. In these situations, he sees academics and volunteers stepping in to form an evolving concept of “art rescue” in its very early stages, and not anything near the potential he believes exists. With no present government oversight or government entity, those impacted by human displacement must resort to those who often work on smaller scales. Art Rescue was a concept in the making over the past ten years, operationally over the past 4. And Lindholm says that everything is based on time. If he receives a damaged work within a week of incident, he can recover 98 percent. Three weeks later and the results drop to 70 percent. Three months later and he’s down to 20 percent.
Art Rescue’s business is strong. While Lindholm is focused on his day-to-day and the streamlining of his business operations, he says he normally charges the industry standards based on size of piece, hours of work, standard picture framing rates, restoration fees by size, recovery fees based on labor and time output, and additional fees including transport, triage, and pre-treatment on immediate rescue.
I asked Lindholm about art and human displacement. Focusing on artwork as a damaged result of looting, demonstrations, or mass exodus, he stated he doesn’t see or hear about a lot of artwork damage by virtue of malicious acts or even inadvertent causes, even though he concedes this MUST exist given our times. However, he stresses the importance of the valuable work of pivoting off the local framer, who in fact, is often preserving art that represents someone’s history.
“Picture frame shops are key. Framers are often the only art handlers with hinges, packing, framing, matting and glassing experience who are actually handling our art. Actual art handling is almost always done by picture framers and they represent a key factor in recovery, materials and handling. Given that we’re small businesses trying to do things efficiently, the framer is creating the demand for better materials and faster processes even while the materials and the techniques evolve.” – Ron Lindholm, Art Rescue, Dennis, MA
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