You’ve indulged in a stunning new piece of art and decided where to show it off – perhaps above the mantle piece, in the bedroom of your beachside condo or at the head of the table in the boardroom. Even after investing a lot of time (and money) in choosing and hanging a piece of art, getting the lighting right is all too often overlooked.
Achieving perfect lighting, which lets the art take center stage and look like it’s naturally and effortlessly working a space, isn’t always easy so we’ve gathered some tips and pointers from top industry experts.
Positioning Art out of Harms Way
Before investing in a lighting set up you need to confirm that the position of your piece isn’t going to be damaged or overwhelmed by natural light. Art should never be placed in direct sunlight as this will quickly damage most art materials, from fading the colours to disintegration of more delicate materials.
Also, reconsider hanging art in between two windows as the light glaring in either side of a piece will probably distract from and overpower the artwork.
Choosing the Best Type of Lighting
Choosing the right fixture of lighting depends on the look and feel of your décor but also on the feasibility of fitting lights into your ceiling. More contemporary settings are often lit with recesses lighting, a series of small spotlights which are built into the ceiling and can be angled to best complement a piece. Rule of thumb is that the lighting should be at a 30º angle to the centre of the image to avoid any shadowing from acute angles or glare from more obtuse angles.
Track lighting provides a similar effect to recess lighting but is less discrete and might fit with the décor, in both contemporary and more traditional settings. However, track lighting does provide flexibility with most fittings allowing easy re-positioning and movement of spotlights.
The most flexible option is to fit picture lights to your piece, also adding an elegant finish to your décor as they are widely available in many styles and dimensions. However, it can still be tricky to fit these while concealing any wires. Picture lamps are especially useful for adjusting lighting to suit individual paintings and for art that might be swapped and changed frequently.
Buying the Right Bulbs
As we start to see traditional bulbs phased out of the market, especially in Europe, LED bulbs are a top choice among lighting experts, especially as quality and availability is improving all the time. Due to low heat and no UV or Infrared light emission, LEDs are also a low-risk option when it comes to light damage. Traditional halogen spotlights create the brightest white light and are still popular but need to be placed far enough away from an image to avoid any heat damage.
When choosing LED bulbs, experts recommend opting for a high Colour Rendering Index (CRI) of 90+, to ensure the colours in your artwork remain true. You will also be able to select the warmth or coolness of your bulbs as well as the beam width, which should be chosen to roughly match the width of your frame.
The Perfect Settings
Finally, with your lights and bulbs at the ready, you’ll be able to set the intensity of your lights. Common rules of thumb are that lighting should be set to fit nighttime lighting, this is because setting to fit daylight risks creating an overpowering ‘showroom’ style lighting in the evenings.
Another rule of thumb is that the lighting on your artwork should be three times brighter than the ambient light in the room. Even with lighting being at the top of an image, staying with in the “three times brighter” rule means that our human eyes will perceive the whole image as being the same brightness.