Bringing Art to Light

Harry Triggs and Andrew Molyneux of TM Lighting, the British designer and maker of a new generation of LED lighting products for art collections of all sizes discuss the advantages of modern lighting.

First and foremost, homeowners wish for their art collections to be seen in the best possible light. That is the benefits of what we call the ‘three Cs’; colour rendition, a colour temperature that considers the immediate environment and the nature of artwork being lit and colour consistency that matches the visual in the room.

To be able to see an object, light must bounce off of it. If that light only has 80% of the spectrum of colour in it, then you will only see 80% of the true colour of that object - so it may appear dull, or faded. The perception of colour in an artwork is our eye perceiving the light reflected off a canvas. TM Lighting use full spectrum, high colour rendition light which replicates all of the colours of the rainbow and allows items like sofas and clothing, as well as sculptures and paintings, to be appreciated in their full glory. In the past, the old tungsten filament bulbs didn’t light the picture well and would create only a glow at the top of the frame. The colour was too warm which distorted the colour of the painting, and the heat from the light damaged it.

Historic houses frequently require bespoke lighting for period artwork. We have recently worked with Burghley House and you can see the effects in the before and after images below.

Presentation techniques

Lighting has a direct impact on the atmosphere of a room. You can create drama with the way you illuminate specific pieces. It helps to visualise the space like a theatre stage and to handpick pieces in the space that will become focal points to create life and movement.

Three easy techniques can achieve very different atmospheres in the room:

Casual solution: Pick out a key picture within a group of artworks and light only this and let a little light spill onto other works.

Intermediate solution: Use accent lights to project a pool of light on to a group of artworks.

Serious collection solution: Light every piece specifically using individual lights per artwork.

With each of these solutions, we are recommending the creation of a layer of vertical illumination; this provides the warmth of the reflected colour of the artwork into the room and adds depth to your lighting scheme.

The best lighting schemes are made up of multiple layers of lighting.

How to light art in different environments

In a contemporary environment, there may be more flexibility to use a discreet track and spotlight solution. This will give greater flexibility in the lighting scheme particularly if the client has a rolling/curated art collection.

In a classical setting consider using picture lights instead of spotlights. Both have their own benefits but the use of picture lights can provide a more precise lighting tool in comparison with spotlights, which often create scallops of light above an artwork.

The finish of the lights should be considered. If using picture lights, consider using a finish to match other features in the room such as door handles and other light fixtures. Alternatively, match the finish of the picture light to the frame, or wall colour to create a subtle, seamless look. All solutions will work equally well in both settings if the finishes are correctly selected for the environment.

Lighting 3D artwork

When lighting sculptures and 3D works of art, it is most important to understand the artist's intent, as the position and the quality of light can have a dramatic effect upon how it is perceived, and its focus within a room.

We suggest using spotlights in specific positions working with light and shadow to accent the form of the sculpture. Poorly positioned lighting on sculpture can completely change the intent of a piece - a face could look sad or happy just from an incorrectly positioned light.

What to avoid

Avoid positioning artwork in natural light that is high in UV radiation during the morning and high in Infrared radiation during the evening. These wavelengths are outside of the visible light spectrum but are damaging to delicate pigments in artworks. Therefore, hanging in a position where light spills directly from the window onto the canvas can fade artwork.

Avoid placing artwork directly between large windows; your eye will struggle to see the artwork during daytime without significant artificial light levels to counter the contrast levels. Artworks with reflective glass, or a high gloss level should not be mounted directly opposite large windows to prevent undesirable reflections.

Why LED?

In the past, art was lit with halogen and other incandescent light sources, emitting infrared, ultraviolet and a great deal of heat. This was a harmful combination that is incredibly damaging to paintings, oils and particularly delicate colour pigments.

The principal benefit of using LEDs is that the harmful rays are minimised – no UV, infrared or forward heat is emitted onto the work. This is crucial when lighting delicate items such as watercolour paintings or textiles and fabrics over a sustained period.

In addition, LED products have the added benefit of dramatically reducing energy consumption and maintenance costs. The benefits of LEDs supersede those of any other light source, with the following benefits:

· Achieves precise lux levels on each art work through individually dimmable switches (either locally or remotely).

· Our picture lighting product designs are typically from 1W – 10W compared to a standard picture light of 30W – 100W. Therefore it emits less energy (consumes less power) and is more efficient.

· Over 12 months, 100 picture lights could save £4,000 compared with the same number of standard S15 lamps.

· The lamp life of our picture light range of designs is 50,000 hours compared with 1000 hours for S15 lamps – a significant energy saving.

· All our products are in line with the CIBSE Lighting Guide LG8 for museums and art galleries as they allow individual dimming for each artwork medium.

TM Lighting was founded by Harry Triggs and Andrew Molyneux in 2012 after a combined career spanning over 30 years in the industry. The pair met at Brunel University where they both studied Industrial Design and after pursuing different careers, Triggs as a lighting consultant and Molyneux as a product designer, were reunited by their shared obsession for art and lighting and a desire to innovate.

Contact details:

TM Lighting, Unit 10, 21 Wren Street, London, WC1X 0HF

020 7278 1600

Image Credits:

Title Image and Image 2 in article:

The Bow Room, Burghley House painted by Louis Laguerre in 1697. The walls depict scenes from Roman history: the battle of Cannae, Mark Anthony’s death before Cleopatra and Scipio releasing the betrothed of his defeated enemy. The ceiling shows figures of Roman mythology. TM Lighting lit up the space as if it were a piece of architecture using custom adapted LED spotlights positioned so that the columns in the painting were uplit, and the allegorical scenes were enhanced. Photo by Dave Thrower, Redshift Photography.

Image 3 in article:

The La Maison Rouge Gallery in Paris. TM Lighting worked with lighting designer Adam Meredith of MEGS Design, to light the collection loaned by David Walsh. Photo by LMR Install.

Image 4 in article:

Andrew Molyneux (left) & Harry Triggs (right), Co-founders, TM Lighting, pictured at Hyatt Regency London, The Churchill Bar. Photo by Tim Bol.

How can we help you ?