Skylights: Bringing Out the Best in Art
Curators and collectors continually struggle with the age old dilemma of how to find the right lighting for works of art without risking undue damage.
The problem with direct sunlight and artificial light is that they cause damage not only through exposure to light (photochemical action), but from solar heat gain. The result of both will lead to the deterioration of art through cracking, brittleness and change in color.
The solution for many museums and galleries are translucent skylights.
Natural Overhead Light: The Artist’s Choice
When the curators of the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that the skylights in their European Galleries were being replaced, they explained why skylights are so important to showcase art.
“It is only with natural light that the relationships the artist considered crucial can be fully appreciated—something worth remembering next time you visit a European church to admire a fresco cycle or altarpiece and see it illuminated by artificial light the artist never considered and that usually contradicts the conditions for which the artist made adjustments. This is the reason that in every great museum the paintings galleries are on the top floor, with natural overhead light usually augmented by artificial light,” the curators said.
The science of skylights allows them to deliver high illuminance levels, which direct visual emphasis onto artwork being displayed. However in any gallery setting, illuminance needs to be balanced with luminance, or the quantity of light that is reflected back to a viewer. To create that balance, and protect artwork, light needs to be controlled.
Artificial lighting is the easiest to control, but can also do the most damage. Uncontrolled sunlight through glass emits infrared light, which causes heat that is damaging to all mediums, especially watercolors, textiles, photographs and drawings.
According to the esteemed Vose Galleries of Boston, the harm caused by direct sunlight will be evident in unprotected watercolors in just a few weeks. Pigments will fade and the paper can become brittle or yellowed.
Controlling sunlight through the use of curtains, blinds, louvres, tints or other methods can rob a room of the proper lighting that a gallery or museum needs to bring out the best of the art it houses. Skylights fitted with translucent sandwich panels, however, can have a dramatic effect in a gallery setting through the introduction of diffuse natural daylight.
By allowing diffused, balanced daylighting into a space, skylights that incorporate translucent sandwich panels provide predictable, beautiful, glare-free daylight.
Kalwall’s translucent sandwich panels, for instance, provide museum-quality daylighting™ that reduces the solar heat gain most damaging to art, while transmitting the full spectrum of visible light for perfect color rendition within interiors.
The ambient lighting provided by diffuse natural daylight will also enhance the viewing experience of visitors by creating a more warm and inviting atmosphere.
While there are ways to maximize natural daylight in any building, artificial light is always going to be necessary. It is finding that right balance that brings out the best in art.
See how skylights protect and bring out the best in art with these five projects in our visual blog.