The worst art restorations in the world

Art is designed to be original, striking and meaningful. The process of restoring pieces of art typically makes these precious designs last even longer than intended. But that’s not to say there aren’t bad art restorations that ruin a piece of art entirely… And some are so bad they make you laugh, which is why we’ve rounded up the worst art restoration fails to date.

So, what are the worst art restorations in the world? We’re here to tell all, just prepare yourself, you’ll be giggling through each sentence with the ones we’ve discussed. Just read on and enjoy!

1. Mary and Baby Jesus statue  - Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Image source: Marina von Stackelberg/CBC via The Guardian

When it comes to art restoration failures, this had to come first! Local artist, Heather Wise once offered to restore the famous Mary and Baby Jesus statue at Sainte-Anne-des-Pins Catholic Church, Sudbury, Ontario.

  • Wise offered to replace Baby Jesus’s head, completely free of charge. So of course, the church was happy to accept this offer.
  • Unfortunately, when it was recast, it didn’t look a patch like the original. The new Baby Jesus appeared as a red, spikey-haired horror.
  • Twitter and the media claimed it looked more like the famous Simpsons character, Lisa Simpson!
  • Funnily enough, the church actually grew fond of the obscure red Baby Jesus, so after stating they’d be cleaning and restoring it, they planned to keep it.
  • Much to the church’s dismay, Wise wanted it back. This statue was a true success; it was Wise’s most famous piece of artwork to date. So naturally, she wanted to reclaim it, and bask in the popularity it drew!

2. St. Anthony of Padua statue -  Soledad, Colombia

Image source: Juan Duque via Artnet

When it comes to bad art restorations, the St. Anthony of Padua statue had to feature next on our list. It’s safe to say that the 150-year-old sculpture had been given a real “glow-up” back in 2018 once it was restored and sent back to the Colombian church it came from.

  • After realising the St. Anthony of Padua statue had serious termite damage, the parish sent the statue out for repair, discovering on return it had been given a real facelift.
  • The saint and baby Jesus had been given what looked like a serious makeover, with blusher, eyeshadow and lipstick now appearing on the statues’ ‘faces’.
  • More effeminate on return than when it was sent out, the statue allegedly horrified people.
  • Many claimed the person who restored the famous statue was not actually a qualified restorer, and had completely deformed the original features of the saint and all that it encompassed. Yikes!
  • Yet for such a monumental statue, the parish only paid $328 to restore it, which is a little strange considering its worth and importance.

3. Ocakli Ada castle – Sile, Turkey

Image source: Cracked.com

Historic and scenic gem, Ocakli Ada castle in Turkey is another recreated disaster. After a five-year restoration process, these picturesque ruins were updated and transformed into what looked like a whole new castle.

  • It was rebuilt and finished in 2010, to preserve the ruins after the structure began to crumble.
  • The modern materials used might have been sturdy and used to withstand age, but the appearance was a whole different story.
  • The newly-formed Ocakli Ada castle resembled a Playmobil castle, being completely square and smooth in both structure and design.
  • As with other art restoration fails, social media went crazy over this restored castle, comparing its looks to the famous cartoon sea sponge, SpongeBob Squarepants, as well as the Simpson icon, Bart Simpson!

4. St. George – Navarre, Spain

Image source: Navarre regional government via The Guardian

The iconic, 500-year-old St. George statue had to make it on our list of bad art restorations. In 2018, this superb statue was turned into a gormless-looking figure, only to be discovered when it was handed back to its home - the Church of San Miguel de Estella in Navarre, Spain.

  • George ended up looking more like a playdough character than a sculpture when the restoration was finished, becoming an internet sensation.
  • The poor work of the restoration didn’t go unpunished, either, as the organisation responsible (as well as the church) were fined a whopping €6,000!
  • It was so bad the church restored it one last time, spending $37,000 on the re-restoration.

5. Santa Bárbara - Fortaleza de Santa Cruz, Brazil

Image source: Milton Teixeira via Artnet

Another famous art restoration failure is the Santa Bárbara sculpture in Brazil. It took six months to restore – which you could say is more of a surprise considering the end result…

  • Conservators from Rio’s Museu Histórico do Exército removed nearly four layers of paint to bring the original look of the Santa Bárbara statue to life again.
  • Unfortunately, the crafted female figure ended up looking more like a barbie doll when restored, which was obviously not the intention…
  • The garish makeover meant the statue of Santa Bárbara had bold, black eyeliner, bright red lipstick-coloured lips and a strange-looking robe (especially when compared to the original).

Image source: Milton Teixeira via Artnet

Our take on all of these art restoration failures

Each of these bad art restorations is pretty comical to talk about, but in art terms, they’re quite disappointing, especially since such remarkable works were lost and then unskilfully remastered! It seems from these examples, people are also paying cheap and paying twice, relying on locals, volunteers or new artists to recreate iconic designs by brilliant artists. So, it’s not surprising that restorations don’t come back looking, well, anything like the originals!

Keep learning!

Now you’ve had a good chuckle and learnt about bad art restorations that transformed into comedic art, you can pass on this knowledge. If you’re hoping to gain further insights into the art world, famous artists and popular genres, simply visit our blog and uncover a whole wealth of articles brimming with information!