The High Museum of Art

Choosing the right lighting for any space can be a complex decision. Considerations need to be made with respect to the purpose, form and function of the lighting application. Design and aesthetics also play a role in the equation. With so many options for lighting on the market, it takes specialized knowledge and understanding to determine the best fit for your space. Even more challenging than finding lighting for a generic space, an art gallery or museum application can be difficult and even overwhelming to light properly.  LED lighting has simplified a large chunk of lighting for art display.

LED Lighting and Natural Sunlight: CRI and Color Temperature 

Natural lighting is very important for displaying or producing art.  Sunlight has the highest CRI (Color Rendering Index).  CRI is the measurement of a light source’s ability to reveal the colors of various objects faithfully and accurately.  The truest representation of the actual colors in the art piece.  If natural lighting is inaccessible, LED lighting is as close to reproducing natural light as it gets. LED lighting mimics the properties of sunlight. LED and sunlight have a lot in common as LED components allow for finer adjustments of color, brightness and intensity.

The next important feature of sunlight for lighting art is its color temperature. Contrary to popular belief, sunlight is not yellow. With color temperatures ranging from 5,200 Kelvin to 6,400 Kelvin, sunlight is actually blue. These are the closest temperatures artificial lighting can come to natural sunlight and also the color temperature range recommended for lighting art.

Benefits of LED Track Lighting

More and more art galleries and retail chains are making the switch from halogen and fluorescent lighting fixtures to LED track lights. Some initial concerns for smaller art galleries have been the upfront costs associated with considering LED track lighting – they are more expensive than the traditional halogens, however, the benefits of using LED lighting for art need to be factored into the whole decision.

LED lighting consumes a fraction of the power of traditional gallery lighting and heat radiation from some bulbs has become problematic. One of the most beneficial aspects of the LED Track lighting option is that it decreases heat and increases color rendering – in any space, this is important but in a space such as an art gallery, they are both crucial elements in display and preservation. In fact, even when dimmed, the LED track lights still retain their proper spectrum of light so true colors are displayed effectively.

Impact of color temperature and Lighting in an art gallery

Natural lighting (sun light) is often the ideal solution for art display, but this is simply not an option in most spaces. The next best thing is a well-lit studio, and this is where the technical factors come into play when selecting art gallery lighting. Color temperatures and color rendering indexes are then used to get as close as possible to displaying art accurately. White light is measured at its purest at 6500K; many artists paint with bulbs closer to 5000K, which is less “blue” or cool.  The more color from a light source, whether it’s a yellowish hue or a blueish hue, the more the original art colors will be distorted when viewed.  The aim is to get as close to pure white as possible.



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This was a very helpful article. We will be building a home on mixed-use land, where I will be able to have a studio/gallery space. I plan on the gallery part being a full, (albeit small), retail gallery space which will be approximately 15′ x 19′. I know it is… Read more »

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