Shedding light on art

Shedding light on art
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First Published: Thu, Apr 26 2007. 12 53 AM IST
Updated: Thu, Apr 26 2007. 12 53 AM IST
An early M.F. Husain painting, dating to the 1960s, would be worth a fortune today. But not if the colours have faded in the harsh lights of your room. Illuminating a painting or sculpture should be done in such a way as to preserve its dignity, according to the American Institute of Conservation.
The lighting depends on the nature of the artwork to be illuminated. A drawing or a sketch needs low-intensity lights, compared with canvases and acrylics, where a slightly higher intensity light can be applied. Spot illumination can be used based on sculptures such as bronzes.
It is best to use colour-rendition lamps that do not radiate too much heat. This could be a challenge as most good colour-rendition lamps are also very warm. Halogen lamps are generally used to light up works of art, with the colour temperature restricted to between 3,000 and 4,500 degrees Kelvin.
The lights focused on the painting should be dimmed, depending on the weather and time of the day, to reduce heat. Exposing a painting to direct sunlight is not advisable, as the ultraviolet (UV) rays cause fading of pigments. Halogen lamps with low UV are offered by a number of brands such as Philips, Osram and BLV and are priced at Rs90-Rs350.
Though there is no definite rule regarding the positioning of fixtures, ensure that the light source is not obvious and the painting is evenly illuminated. The light source could be recessed on the ceiling or around the painting. In most cases, lighting a painting evenly solves the problem of one colour dominating the work. For instance, if a painting containing yellow and blue is unevenly lit, the yellow parts will appear too dazzling with the blue appearing unnaturally muted ( as yellow reflects light more than blue). You must also make sure that there is no glare from the glass or frames of the painting.
Fixtures are available at Mr Light and Decon, both at Khan Market, New Delhi. Vis-à-vis in Sultanpur and Murano India Pvt. Ltd in Vasant Vihar (New Delhi) also deal in imported fixtures.
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First Published: Thu, Apr 26 2007. 12 53 AM IST
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