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The Importance of Lighting
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A level of importance and thought with lighting gives art some serious punch.

It can change the setting completely, creating an ambiance and mood. It can create soul and enhancement and change the emotion and aesthetic experience, as well.

Hefty words, but nevertheless, they ring true. With proper lighting, the intent and strokes of the artist’s brush or palette knife are shown to full advantage.

And lighting has far surpassed a mere cool bulb attached to the top of the frame. LED lights are changing the art world. Even track lighting has been usurped with state-of-the-art low voltage fixtures. Although low voltage has been a standard for quite awhile, these days, the best bulb highly recommended by art gallery owners is the Sylvia MR16 infrared bulb, which lasts three-times longer than any other source. Of course, the beam spread is crucial, as well.

Bill Rey, owner of Claggett Rey Gallery is passionate about art, which is not surprising since is father, Jim Rey, is a noted western artist. “Lighting can radiate a positive energy and sophisticated elegance that changes your body response to artwork,” says Rey.

It is even said that track lighting, above fixed bookcases – especially if tacked behind the lip of the shelves – reflects one’s knowledge and brings good feng shui into a home.

Gallery owners and retailers alike are amazed that people will spend thousands of dollars on a piece of art, but not spend $1,500 on a good light fixture to show it off. Lighting art is crucial to properly display the shadows and textural quality of a piece to assure an emotional response.
The only lighting system that Deane Knox, owner of Knox Gallery, recommends is Tech Lighting, using MR16 bulbs, which are halogen quartz. According to Knox, the average light bulb is incandescent and yellow, but halogen quartz is like the northern lights. Additionally, Knox suggests that lighting approach the painting at a 45-degree angle.

“The simplest way to light artwork is with the Advent or Gemini picture light,” says Knox. “It has little halogen MR16 and can be mounted behind the painting on the wall. A Joshua light, designed to properly illuminate your artwork and eliminate glare, can be acquired in most retail outlets.”

John Cogswell, owner of Cogswell Gallery concurs. “It’s nice to have pure white halogen with low voltage bulbs. However, it’s even better with a dimmer as it will pick up the feeling and texture of the artist’s brush strokes.”

Cogswell also emphasizes the importance of lighting sculpture. “Up-lighting on bronze makes the piece more dramatic,” he explains. “It creates a “wash” to silhouette the sculpture and give it an uplifting feel.”

Rey says that he has a tendency to pick up on what lighting could make the piece look better, more sophisticated. He feels that his job is to make the work of art look its best to honor the artists.
“I am amazed at some of the projects of architects and designers,” Rey comments. “It looks good on paper, but if you see the work in the evening, it’s as though you’re in a warehouse.”

At times, people don’t think about moving existing fixtures in their homes, when they hang a new piece of art. But they should. They should also avoid interference caused by an outside source, such as a window that might shed too much light on a canvas. It’s very important to understand the specific location as well as the environment of the artwork.

According to Kathi Fisher, owner of Vail Lights, “It is important to wash an art piece (with light) and avoid glare or hot spots. The brightness of the light source should be three-times brighter than the room lighting and the length of the fixture should cover the whole piece.”

Of course, the ideal time to think about lighting artwork is at the blueprint stage, when it can be incorporated into the overall scheme of things. However, that’s not always possible.

Electrician Dave Shaw works closely with Rey to gain the utmost in results by retrofitting the lighting for artwork. Much of the time he gets good results using Lutron Radiora wireless fixtures. Other times, he fishes through a wall outlet to install a remote control switch. It beats the old way of having cords hanging down below each painting.

“Before, lights stayed on all the time or else you had to go around and turn off the light of each individual painting, “ Shaw says.

Lighting a piece of artwork is like putting the sparkle on the crowning jewels of any setting. However, with a little bit of education on lighting art, any homeowner’s collection, whether miniscule or large, can come alive.

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