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Art Lighting Fixtures

Apr 13, 2008
Art requires lighting fixtures that are specifically designed to render color in exquisite detail, operate with minimal heat, and eliminate harmful ultraviolet and infrared light that can damage more sensitive pieces. Art lighting fixtures come in a variety of design types, each of which offers scores of individual models and lighting controls from which you can choose. Art lighting fixtures have to matched to both the type and genre of artwork they illuminate, and they have to aesthetically compliment the interior design of the home, office, or gallery surrounding the art. Some are made to be visible, yet attractive; others are made to minimize or conceal their appearance altogether so that you see the light and not the fixture.

Picture Lights

Picture lights are accent art lighting fixtures that attach to the top of the frame and cast direct lighting downward across the surface of the image. This evenly distributes illumination across the surface of the image, bringing out the details of texture, color, and subtle interplays of light and shadow. However, due to their close proximity to the image, these art lighting fixtures can damage sensitive oils and canvases common in rare originals and extremely fine art. For these pieces, it is either necessary to choose a different fixture type altogether, or to use over the picture lights fitted with LED lamps. These lamps use less electricity and emit wavelengths of light that are minimal in forward throw heat and completely free of ultraviolet radiation.

Nevertheless, one drawback remains even with the most sophisticated LED technology: namely, the obtrusive, visible presence of an art lighting fixture physically protruding from the frame. In art showings and galleries, more exquisite works of art require lighting fixtures that reside outside of the viewer's line of sight.

This form of lighting is called "sourceless" lighting and produces a much cleaner form of illumination.

Track Lights

Track lights are art lighting fixtures that hang suspended from a rail, or "track" as it is called, that runs near the ceiling parallel to the wall. Although they reside near the ceiling above the line of site, they are still clearly visible and therefore are not a completely "sourceless" form of lighting.

Nevertheless, they often prove themselves ideal for certain, specific arenas. Track lights are often the preferred art gallery lighting fixtures of high-end photography studios. Most photography showings consist of a series of images displayed as a thematically representative group. A single track light can be pointed toward a single photograph, placing each piece in its own individual light. They also work very well in contemporary or ultra-modern interior lighting design.

Track lights sometimes lack the ability to light exceptionally large canvases and prints, and even though they can be controlled with dimmer switches to create different levels of light, they are nonetheless limited in their capacity to achieve highly customized lighting effects. An alternate to this type of exposed ceiling lighting is picture frame lights that mount directly to the art itself.

They are also the most visibly obtrusive of all art lighting fixtures and do not work well with interior designs.

For a more advanced, low profile approach to lighting, you need either adjustable recessed lighting fixtures or an art-framing projector with sophisticated filtration and photometric controls that allow you to light larger areas and/or shape the light to the artwork itself.

Recessed Lights

Recessed ceiling lights number among one of the more popular "sourceless" art lighting fixture types. They mount in the ceiling and direct light from an angle onto a piece. Recessed low voltage lights are commonly fitted with halogen bulbs renowned for their optimal color rendering capabilities and extremely bright light. For some less sensitive works of art, such as black and white photography or lithographic prints, halogen recessed lights can be an ideal source of illumination. They work exceptionally well for lighting a small grouping of thematically connected photographs or prints.

For more sensitive oils and acrylics, recessed picture lighting fixtures must be fitted with special ultraviolet filters to prevent the light from degrading the materials and paints. This can be problematic even with the best of equipment, however, as some UV light may still reach the canvas and cause deterioration over time.

Framing Projectors

Like recessed art lighting fixtures, framing projectors install into the ceiling and assume a concealed, unobtrusive position above the line of sight. They feature customized halogen lamps, adjustable lenses, and powerful ultra violet filters that create the safest form of lighting to use with sensitive, rare, and exquisitely fine art. They also offer the widest range of beam control and color rendering capacities that rival natural light.

The only drawback that some projector models have is a rather bulky physical size that makes them stick out too much even though they reside near the ceiling. Some require professionals to adjust, and many can only be installed by cutting into the ceiling--something some collectors and curators are not able to do due to building lease restrictions.

Some projectors, however, such as the Phantom Contour initially conceived offer a seamlessly installed, compact, and highly user-friendly upgrade to standard art lighting projector design.

Phantom Contour Projectors are so called because of their specialized lens design that allows you to fit the size of the beam to the exact dimensions of a painting, print, or high-end photograph.

A series of filters strips all harmful UV and IR light from the beam and allows you to further shape the light to follow the contours of sculpture and three-dimensional abstract pieces. Recessed Phantom Projectors are far more sophisticated than many competing projector builds, but they are engineered for optimal user convenience. They operate as low voltage devices that use only a fraction of the power normally consumed by 120V art lighting fixtures.

If you are lighting rare, sensitive originals, showcasing sculpture, or creating an eclectic display of museum quality black and white photos, the Contour's apparently sourceless light can be adjusted to create a magical, lighted from within effect that unites art itself with light. It can be adjusted without a service call with some very basic working knowledge of its controls, and it can be fitted with hand-cut templates or even Roscoe gobos for special lighting effects.
About the Author
Phantom Lighting is a manufacturer of high end lighting projectors and linear strip display lighting fixtures. Phantom operates throughout North, Central, and South America through a network of agent representatives. Visit http://www.phantomlighting.com/art_lighting_fixtures.htm and http://www.phantomlighting.com
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