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Lighting Art Successfully
Lighting your artwork successfully: What you need to know to light artwork, sculpture, paintings and other decor
If you have seen artwork displayed in a home, gallery, office, retail or other type of location, you may have noticed how much lighting impacts the presentation. Lighting artwork properly is essential to experience and understand the complete work of art and all of its illustrious detail. Artwork comes in a great variety of shapes and sizes, including two–dimensional art such as paintings and photographs and three–dimensional art featuring sculptures and carvings.
Lighting artwork poses challenges from both the technical application and design aspects. Proper lighting can bring out nuances and effects in your artwork that you may have not seen previously in a different light.
Utilizing the correct lighting fixtures and lamping will help distinguish your artwork in a room or environment. Considerations for ambient lighting, color temperatures, color rendering and lamp positioning are a few of the techniques and styles that we will explore.
Artwork comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and types. This Application Note was created to help new and existing art owners light their pieces successfully and with style. WAC Lighting focuses on both residential and commercial applications and offers unique products to fill your individual needs. We also understand that those needs vary depending on the application and the intended look of the artwork itself.
In lighting design, lighting artwork properly helps to create a dramatic, subtle or surreal effect in your room or environment. Consider not just the piece, but how the piece is represented in the surrounding space. There are many different lighting and lamping sources available on the market today and it is important to understand your specific application and the surrounding environment before we explore how to maximize its effectiveness with lighting.
There are some general rules of thumb to follow when lighting artwork, although applied techniques can vary for unique style considerations. Without light we will not be able to see the artwork. With poor lighting, it will be difficult for us to be pleased in viewing the artwork. When applying the techniques discussed herein consider the overall lighting design and going beyond just lighting the piece of artwork to maximize its effectiveness and visual appeal.
Han Meilin is one of the world's most renowned artists and is responsible for many significant works around the world. Recently constructed is the Beijing Han Meilin Art Museum, which is a personal art museum that holds the richest kinds of art categories and the largest quantity of exhibits. The lighting designer chose WAC Lighting as the primary source to highlight the exhibits and displays. In the museum, ambience is normally dimmed to highlight exhibits. The artist insists on bright environments. In lighting the artwork, the designer adopted cold light on the background and warm light on the exhibits. Carefully chosen lamps and lamp positions control vertical illumination to protect papery Chinese paintings and to avoid interference caused by mirror effects. (right).
When creating your lighting plan, generally use a light source for your artwork that is three times the intensity (brightness) of the ambient (room) lighting. This helps to accent your piece without the light appearing too dim or overwhelming. In lighting design, techniques can also be applied to reduce the general lighting level within the space where the artwork is being displayed to achieve this 3:1 contrast. First, assign the light level that is appropriate to the artwork and then adjust the level for the rest of the room to create the right visual contrast. The two major types of artwork, 2-D and 3-D, both deserve the same lighting considerations however, techniques will vary. The viewing angles, shadows and reflections are different and unique to each piece of art. 3-D artwork can be accented, but 2-D artwork, in general, is lit evenly (see below). Proper lighting needs to have a good balance of visual performance, energy conservation and preservation of the artwork. Visual performance requires different design considerations, to achieve a good balance of brightness and contrast while producing the optimal color rendering.
When positioning your lighting in relation to the piece of artwork consider several variables. To help reduce glare, place the light at a 30-degree angle from the piece. Add 5 degrees to the angle for a larger frame, which helps to avoid casting a shadow. Reduce 5 degrees from the position if you are trying to accent the texture of a painting (right).
Some works of art have sensitivities to heat, Ultra Violet (UV) or Infrared (IR) radiation. These pieces should be kept out of direct or indirect sunlight and proper lamping options should be selected to best preserve them over time. To help alleviate this concern, WAC Lighting offers many lens options, including UV and IR blocking lenses to protect your artwork. For heat sensitive artwork, place the lamp at an adequate distance from the piece. Use your hand to test heat output between the lamp and the artwork. If an adequate distance cannot be achieved, select an alternative light source, like the WAC LEDme™ track luminaires; which are thermally energy efficient, long lasting and deliver a strong light output with color options available from warm white 3000K to cool white 6000K depending on the look you wish to achieve (below).