What do you get when you combine the highbrow nerdiness of art history with the gleeful voyeurism of the before-and-after makeover show?
You get Baumgartner Fine Art Restoration’s highly addictive YouTube videos, which document the painstaking process of conserving delicate works of art. Instead of a suburban mum or a dopey slacker, the makeover subject might be a centuries-old painting of the Virgin Mary, who is stripped of her grime and given a new lease on life.
All the videos star Chicago art restorer Julian Baumgartner, who took over the city’s oldest conservation studio from his father in 2011. He must have seen potential in the meteoric rise of YouTube influencers and the weird and utterly addictive phenomenon of ASMR. The before-and after shots are striking testimony to the skill and patience of the art restorer’s practice. But there’s also the captivating thrill that comes from watching Julian work slowly and gently on a priceless, irreplaceable painting: scraping dirt from the surface with cotton buds, gluing tiny threads to tears in the canvas and reapplying paint to chipped areas in small, careful dots.
He must know people get a kick out of it, too, because he’s made narration-free videos that amp up the ambient sound of his scraping, painting, sanding and swabbing – like this special ASMR version of his work on an old wooden frame.
It’s sexy, satisfying stuff for arty-farty types. Here are a few more to get all tingly over: