Death of Tungsten: Another top museum goes all-LED

FOLLOWING HOT on the heels of the relighting last week of London’s Royal Academy in LED comes the decision by a top Paris museum to ditch tungsten.

Located inside the Louvre’s Palace, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is the sixth most visited museum in France and one of the most important in the world. Founded in the nineteenth century, it houses thousands of collectors' objects and artworks, offering a complete overview of arts from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, ranging from toys to jewels, ceramics to furniture.

The ageing lighting installation has been long overdue an refit, but the task was challenging. The artworks had been illuminated with halogen fixtures, and while halogen boasts a theoretical perfect colour rendering, the team was agreed the source was inappropriate for the art.

The lighting is layered: artworks stand out from the general soft lighting in a theatrical way, thanks to the adjustable accent focus on each piece. Projectors are placed on three tracks installed on the roof re-using pre-existing structures where possible.

‘Some colours and pigments simply don’t appear under halogen light,’ says the Linea Light Group, which supplied the project. If questions over its real-world colour rendering weren’t enough, its high energy consumption alone ruled it out of contention as far as the museum was concerned.

The next question was how to handle the colour. Does the team attempt to reproduce the lighting of the artist’s studio where the work was realised? Or its intended home? Or attempt to bring out all the colours?

The consensus was to take the latter approach, but this strategic decision to bring out all the colours led to the next challenge: could they develop an LED source of sufficient colour quality to do all the works justice?

Working with engineers from US LED manufacturer Cree, the team developed a chip-on-board array using the just-launched Ultra HD CXB 1816 diodes.

These have an average colour rendering across reference colours of  98.7 per cent and, importantly, a specific rendering index of red of 89, a very high number for an LED source.

Under the more comprehensive and exacting TM-30 colour rendering metric, the fidelity, or Rf, is 93 and the colour gamut, the complete subset of colours known as Rg, is an near-perfect 99.

In short, the lighting  is able to retrieve every colour range with a fidelity reproduction almost equal to that guaranteed by the natural light source par excellence: the Sun.

Next step was to take the colour consistency of the LEDs to the highest level possible using current technology.

The company supplied the LEDs within a three-step MacAdam ellipse, an onerous colour-consistency tolerance. But to improve it further, Linea Light Group had the individual LEDs tested to bring the consistency down to a two-step ellipse, a spread that’s invisible to the eye. Over 3,500 were tested daily at the peak.

‘The team at the museum weren’t experts in lighting,’ says Linea Light, ‘so to help them understand light quality we did a mock-up with a couple of sample paintings, and showed them how the light changed the visual perception of the colours and pigments.’

‘The curators were really enthusiastic as they could see details in the paintings which they had never seen before.’

The lighting is layered: artworks stand out from the general soft lighting in a theatrical way, thanks to the adjustable accent focus on each piece. Projectors are placed on three tracks installed on the roof re-using pre-existing structures where possible.

The marriage of technology and art that the lighting at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs represents has earned early plaudits. UK lighting expert Gary Campbell of DPA says the concept works. ‘The general light levels are low, and the light is focused on the artwork using lenses so it’s very self contained.

‘And because your eye is just focused on the works themselves and not on the surroundings, it gives it that really special quality’.

 

  • Light quality will be one of the key themes in the first Lux-organisted Lighting for Museums and Galleries conference, taking place alongside the LuxLive 2018 exhibition at ExCeL London on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018. Entry is free to specifiers and gallery and museum staff. More information HERE.

 

Pictures copyright Nicolas Cardin 2017

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