LED Lighting for Museums and Galleries
As an LED Source employee, some of my favorite clients to retrofit to LED are museums and galleries. The difference with what we do is that we continually strive to work with manufacturers and products that achieve the highest standards for color temperature, which is very important to the art world.
People who spend a lot of time in museums and galleries have become very accustomed to viewing art under halogen lights. Halogen has a color temperature somewhere between 2700K and 3000K, but it definitely adds warmth (yellow) to the light. Particularly as it is used with a dimmer, halogen light turns more amber and orange (warmer) as it is dimmed. With LED, control over the color temperature of the light becomes much more precise. LEDs hold its color temperature even though lamps can be dimmed to around 5% of their light output. Finally, low light does not mean orange light!
Because people are “used to” the warmth of halogen, they sometimes don’t initially react well to the CRI accuracy of a true 3000K minus the yellow/orange of the halogen. However, particularly in a setting where bases, walls and cases are white and crisp, such as in a modern art setting, the 3000K look stunning. It isn’t usually a goal here to make the walls and bases look yellow, after all, they are white and should look white even when lit. 3000K are just warm enough, but just white enough to keep whites crisp and make colors vivid and true.
However, for more traditional museums where walls are colored and there is a lot of wood and gold (on frames, accents, etc.), staying closer to the 2700K temperature helps to retain the warmth and the traditional appearance that we love.
With traditional lighting, galleries have often appeared rather dim because of the need to reduce the damage to the art over time owing to the UV and heat generated by halogen. To counter the damage from simply lighting the art, museums have had to use UV filters and very low light settings on their antiquities, to prevent fading and heat damage, especially to fragile pieces such as papers and textiles. With LED it is now possible to light such fragile art a bit brighter than the traditional standards owing to the fact that LEDs do not emit UV and will not cause heat damage to the art. With LED, UV and heat concerns are a thing of the past, allowing art to be well lit without risking damage.
The most important thing about correctly lighting art spaces is to test a variety of LED lamps in the setting itself. Seeing is believing. When the color temperatures and beam angles are compared side-by-side on the actual art, it usually becomes very clear what looks best. Avoiding “hot spots,” glare, and light that is too white or intense is crucial. Because LEDs appear brighter to our eyes — even though the foot-candle readings on the light meter are the same or less — it may take a bit of testing to settle on exactly the right lamps (wattage, lumens, colors, beam angles, etc.) for any given setting. Don’t give up, though. LED is definitely the best choice for the art world. This is where a consulting someone who is really well versed with how to work with LED products can be invaluable as you make the switch.
So — let there be LIGHT!! Thanks to beautiful LEDs, art can be seen as it was truly intended to be! Please feel free to contact me if I can help you light the art in your world!