Art lighting fixtures differ from regular illumination in that they are designed to turn a simple viewing into a presentation. The fixtures and their positioning are meant to showcase. Small details, like direction of illumination or type of bulb can have a big impact on how an image or sculpture is viewed. Eliminating unnecessary shadows can prevent the details of a piece from being lost on the eye. Using the proper illumination will not only make colors pop, but it also has the ability to preserve them. Some people may believe that the use of natural light is best, but this is a flawed conclusion. The ultraviolet and infrared rays found in sunbeams cause fading over time. In most cases, direct illumination, even if it is artificial, can be damaging to art and its colorfastness.
There is no single illumination method that is considered the absolute best. Each setup is unique. Each type of bulb has its own strengths and weaknesses that need to be taken into account. Sometimes the art lighting fixtures that are needed will depend on the painting or piece that is being displayed. For example, an image that is composed of mainly warm colors will benefit from incandescent illumination. However, an incandescent bulb can cause cooler shades, like blues and greens, to dull and flatten out. Fluorescent options do not have the ability to emit illumination across the entire spectrum, resulting in colors that are not true to the artist’s intent. Low watt halogen art lighting fixtures are an option for someone who does not mind the white that is created by the bulb.
The type of material will have its own unique way of interacting with illumination. Oil paints will require something different from acrylics, since they are glossier and subject to intense highlights when placed in some illumination situations. A fixture that uses halogen may cause extreme glare when used with oil paints.
A sculpture is usually best displayed with the use of a single recessed light placed above it. Although recessed art lighting fixtures will have limited motion, they will also lie flush with the ceiling and be inconspicuous. Many two dimensional pieces benefit from three illumination sources that are angled.
Different types of fixtures will have different effects. A track can have several areas that glow, and can be used to evenly illuminate an area that has more than one piece being displayed. Besides the position and type, the intensity of the glow is another consideration. The already existing illumination and how that interacts with both the new bulbs and the art should be examined. Usually, illumination used for display is three times brighter than the rest of the room.
The presence or absence of a frame also has to be taken into consideration when choosing art lighting fixtures. There are illumination options that clip right onto the edge of a frame, but a sculpture or something that is mounted only on matte-board will have different needs. The amount of heat that the bulb gives off can also factor into the placement. It should be situated at a distance that won’t harm the pieces that are on display.