Kill the Messenger

The following is a quotation from the article “Kill the Messenger” written and publicized by the publicist Yehuda Drori on 5th January 2003
"In the ancient world when a messenger brought bad news to the king, he would be killed.

 This practice was well-known not only in Babylon, Persia and the Mediterranean basin region but also among the Japanese, Chinese and various Indian tribes in the American continents. Even in the bible we find that David ordered the execution of the person who brought him the news about the death of Saul and Jonathan. This practice is maintained even today in the modern world – but more humanely – not actually killing the messenger, but simply ignoring his message . . ."
This is the best scenario; otherwise they slander him until he turns to dust. For example, you may draw interesting reactions if you try to save someone from his “sweet ignorance”. Let’s say that your friend has a collection of historically, financially or emotionally valuable items and he keeps them on his veranda, open to the sun, rain and wind or in a mold-ridden cellar, while you know that he values these items. As a concerned friend, you will obviously come and explain what he should do to correctly preserve those items.
How would you feel if the friend reacted by saying: “You must have a hidden interest, you wouldn’t simply give me effective useful and important information to look after my items for free”; he might even add more bluntly: “What will you get out of this?” And that’s exactly how I felt this week.
 I visit many exhibitions, meet with many artists and naturally I am given many artworks to restore. Everywhere I notice the fateful results of the use of problematic creative techniques and improper preservation.
Artworks which are several decades old are sometimes in a far worse state than antique works created 300-400 years ago which have been treated correctly.
 I therefore do my (apparently insufficient) best to eradicate “sweet ignorance” on this issue.  Why “sweet”? It’s very simple.  So long as you are unaware that you need to look after your artworks, then you have no moral obligation to do so and your conscience will not trouble you.  So what do I do, I have invested assiduous efforts to construct a site endowed with a tremendous amount of useful information, recommendations and presentations concerning the important issue of art conservation. I also deliver fascinating lectures on this subject, so that each person can find the most comfortable way to absorb a little of the knowledge that I have accumulated, if they agree to learn how to look after their beautiful treasures.
For those who are interested, I also write professional articles and maintain a blog on art conservation, for one main purpose: to increase awareness concerning this field that is so close to my heart.
This long introduction is given to explain my proposal to one of the artists’ associations, to deliver a short series of lectures and workshops in order to impart basic knowledge concerning the proper treatment for artworks.
Since the association represents artists, who are often unable to afford my usual fees and since, as explained above, I personally feel that it is very important to transmit the knowledge I have accumulated to others, I had decided to contribute the series of lectures/workshops at a symbolic price, approximately a fifth of my regular fees. And then came the bombshell, the reaction of two-thirds of the members of the artists’ association committee, who claimed that I surely had a hidden interest and that if I wanted to lecture to them, then I should pay them for the privilege! Some of the committee members who know me personally, tried to explain to the others that this was a pure gesture of philanthropic giving, but to no avail, the majority preferred to retain their “sweet ignorance”, otherwise they might have to kill the messenger.
A month ago I lectured to a group of artists and art lovers in the North of Israel on correct preservation of artworks.  After the lecture one of the participants, a veteran artist and art teacher, graduate of the Betsalel Art Academy asked me: “why don’t they teach and discuss these issues in institutes that teach artists and those involved in art?”
And indeed, why should artists and collectors not be granted the tools and knowledge to preserve their works of art?
Here is one of the rather bizarre answers that I received from the relevant bodies in a university school of creative arts that trains many future artists: “if the students learn and assimilate the correct techniques, this may impede their creativity”.
Of course this is an irrelevant (and not particularly intelligent) response. If we examine for example, the creativity of the great painters of the past, their genius and creativity was not harmed at all, despite their care and attention for suitable materials and techniques that were tested and proved to be stable over long periods.
Of course, it is insufficient to employ the correct materials and techniques, and it is also necessary to consider regular maintenance. Just as most of us make sure that we have regular maintenance treatments for our cars, thus too we should ensure preservative care of our artworks (although not so frequently) in order not to need the services of an art restorer.

Michael Karo

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