HOW TO LIGHT ART
HOW TO LIGHT ART
From the best kind of bulbs to use to how far away a lighting element should be placed from a work, here are the basics when it comes to lighting art.
BEFORE EVEN DECIDING ON A CERTAIN SETUP, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT SHOULD BE AVOIDED WHEN IT COMES TO LIGHTING ART?
Sustained, direct sunlight can (and probably will) damage most artworks, so it's best not to put them too close to windows. And while the right lighting can accentuate a work in a subtle, enhancing way, very dramatic lighting can overwhelm a work and distort its appearance to viewers.
WHAT ABOUT THE SPECIFIC KIND OF ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING USED? IS ONE KIND OF BULB BETTER THAN ANOTHER?
Definitely. For example, halogen bulbs not only tend to give off light with an orange-tinged hue, but they also produce a great deal of heat that can be detrimental to some artworks. Incandescent bulbs give off less heat than halogen, however, they can still be problematic with the amount of heat they emit. LED lights offer greater versatility as they can come in either warmer or cooler tones, plus, they're more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
ONCE I HAVE THE RIGHT BULB, ARE THERE ANY RULES OF THUMB WHEN IT COMES TO WHERE I SHOULD PLACE A LIGHT RELATIVE TO AN ARTWORK? IS THERE ANY SPECIFIC DISTANCE OR ORIENTATION THAT'S BEST?
In a gallery or other professional setting, most artworks are lit from above with the light set four feet away from the walls where the art is hanging. Of course, this might not be possible to replicate exactly at home, but it's a good general rule. The goal is to evenly wash the work in light without creating any "hotspots."
ARE THERE ANY ELEMENTS OF A SPECIFIC ARTWORK THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER WHEN LIGHTING IT?
A couple. The first would be texture. If a work is heavily textured (think thick layers of impasto paint, for example), the angle or distance a light source is placed could create extreme, distracting shadows when set too close. Also think about if the work has glazing or a very high sheen that could create a strong glare.
A LOT OF HOMES HAVE RECESSED LIGHTING, AND IT SEEMS LIKE THAT COULD MAKE IT TRICKY TO LIGHT A WORK IN SOME CASES. ARE THERE ANY EASY WORKAROUNDS?
Recessed lighting can be an issue, but luckily, there are some simple fixes. Because recessed lights effectively create direct downlight, they might not appropriately illuminate a work in an ambient way. Consider installing a bulb with a 60-120 degree beam angle to overcome the issue, or try placing a diffuser over recessed lights to distribute their light more evenly.