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The Art of Light

23.02.2014 /  Museum & Gallery Lighting

Light creates the atmosphere in a room; it can be used to create dramatic, subtle or surreal tones. Proper lighting can help accentuate artwork and bring out certain features allowing one to see it in a different light and better understand and appreciate the art.

Consider not only the piece, but also its nature and how it is represented in the surrounding space. For example, most 2-D artwork such as paintings would generally be lit evenly; while 3-D art like sculptures can be accented.

Use lights with different beam spreads, designs and set them in innate arrangements to create different – light spaces – to give you the desired spatial impression. Luminous ceilings, indirect luminaires, wall washers, cove luminaires and spot lamps with varied focuses, lenses, symmetry and ambience all create different effects that might suit one piece but not another.

Good lighting takes into consideration:

– Visual Performance,
– Energy Conservation and,
– Artwork Preservation.

Visual performance is usually achieved by fine-tuning the balance between brightness and contrast to produce optimal colour rendering.

Accent lighting uses narrow beams of light to create bright points in dark surroundings to attract attention and emphasise individual objects or architectural detail and textures. Focusing the light creates shadows, brightness contrast, brilliance and good modelling ability, which improves the local visual performance.

To maximise the impact of your art, Neue recommends you choose a light at least three times the intensity of the ambient light. However if you have not settled on artwork prior to the lighting design phase or if you just rather cycle artwork, do not fret. Buying dimmable lights can ensure you will never run out of options. Most of Neue’s products are dimmable and can be programmed to dim individually or in sets, say a certain area in a room. For further flexibility, try LED adjustable wall-lights or LED track lighting to update your pieces and create different and interesting effects.

In terms of energy conservation, while traditional dimmable lights are notorious for being power-guzzlers, their LED counterparts are just as energy efficient as non-dimmable LED lights.

For most art-lovers, artwork preservation is the key deciding factor. To preserve artworks consider positioning, type of light, colour temperature and balance.

To reduce glare, we recommend placing the light at an angle greater than 30-degrees from the piece, depending on the size of the frame.  Alternatively to accentuate textures in a painting, we would reduce the angle by 5 degrees.

Usually more than one colour temperature degrades the picture image. Incandescent lights emit too much warm white creating an imbalance. Halogen lights produce significant amounts of heat, while fluorescent lighting often emits too much ultra violet radiation. Radiant heat may create a rise in temperatures causing a reaction on the surface of the art such as cracking, lifting and change in colour. Visual light too can cause irreversible damage such as yellowing, colour fading and embrittlement; which makes choosing the correct lighting and exposure vital.

The correct LED lighting can prevent deterioration of artworks, especially those that are sensitive to heat, ultra violet and infrared radiation. LED track luminaires are visually pleasing, emit light free of heat and UV radiation and can be balanced and dimmed throughout their lifetime. Their sleek design coupled with energy efficiency and long lifespan makes them perfect for retail stores, restaurants, museum displays and high-end residential apartments.

Yes, we know there are many more considerations and these are just scratching the surface; but this is a good place to start. If you find lighting your art too overwhelming, Neue has lighting designers that will figure it all out for you. Alternatively, if you are across the ball and just have a few queries or comparisons to make, hop on in; we are more than happy to have a chat.

This is why the best kind of lighting isn’t considered lighting.

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