In order to be effective, art museum lighting must correspond to the type of art being exhibited. Natural lighting is generally not preferred as a source of art museum lighting. It emits harmful infrared heat and ultraviolet light waves that will damage a wide variety of paint types and canvases. Natural light is also very difficult to control. It is much better to use art museum lighting fixtures specifically designed for the task of illuminating and properly showcasing fine art and statuary. In most cases, a combination of fixture types by most curators, who tend to design the fine art lighting system around the interior architecture of the room and the exhibits on display.
Accent lighting fixtures often use low voltage halogen lamps that have been specifically engineered for the purposes of art lighting. Ultraviolet light has to be filtered out of the light beam in order to make the light safe for the art, and the fixture must also provide a means of adjusting lighting levels.
Some accent lighting fixtures look like over the picture lights, although many have a base that attaches to the wall above the frame, not to the frame itself. The arms are generally longer and more flexible than generic equivalents. This allows the picture lights to be positioned at just the right distance from the art in order to make the light fit the frame.
Exhibition lighting in art museums is also done with low voltage, filtered spotlights that reside on or near the ceiling. These fixtures create a less intense luminance that is highly effective for special effects or ambient lighting. This type of accent lighting is often found in art museums that exhibit sculpture and three-dimensional abstract art.
Track lights hang suspended from rails that run parallel to the wall. The greatest advantage that they offer is the ability to match the number of lighting fixtures to the exact number of works of art. Because each low voltage light fixture can be moved individually along the rail, each light can be aimed precisely at its chosen object for pinpoint lighting effect. We often see track lighting in art museums showcasing photography exhibits. Because such exhibits normally feature a number of works in a series, track light installations allow for each photograph to be placed in its own individual light.
Lighting designers use recessed picture lights in art museums use halogen lights that produce a very bright, white light with superb color rendering. This light is filtered to remove ultraviolet radiation, and the use of dimmer switches to control lighting levels is generally recommended both as an aesthetic factor and a power saving feature.
One of the greatest advantages recessed accent lighting fixtures offer in art museum lighting is concealment. Unlike track lights, which hang suspended from the ceiling, recessed lights reside on or within the ceiling itself. They are difficult for the casual viewer to see, and they can be used to light both art and sculpture from virtually any angle.
Art projectors are the most high-end of art museum lighting fixtures. Because art projectors can fit the light to the precise dimensions of a painting, and because they produce the safest form of UV and Infrared-free lighting, art museums frequently rely on them to light their most important and rare works of art on display.
Like recessed lights, projectors such as the Phantom Contour mount above the line of site in the ceiling. Almost all have some sort of lens adjustment mechanisms, sophisticated light filters that strip the beam of harmful ultraviolet light, and built in dimmer controls that allow lighting levels to be adjusted appropriately to genre, style, and individual characteristics of a work of art.
The Phantom Contour Projector offers a number of advantages over competing projector models. It is smaller and therefore easier to conceal in more eclectic, formal art museums. Lighting controls on the Contour Projector are exceptionally user friendly and do not require a technician to adjust. A number of models are available specific to interior architecture, including retrofit models that do not require cutting into a ceiling.
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