Thomas Merton author of No Man is an Island sums it up nicely…
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
Great art can capture an amazing moment in time, an unspoken emotion or even the spectacular simplicity of common objects. And how you view it, like the quote infers, is the real pleasure of experiencing it. When it comes to light, museums have to be very particular. Because nothing is more intimately connected to artwork than lighting.
So begins our journey
As The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) was considering an upgrade to their 8,300 lights back in 2007, they realized that lighting technology was still emerging. They knew energy-efficient options were available, but also knew technologies were nowhere near ideal. And as a collection responsible for the care and preservation of invaluable objects, the gallery also needed to be concerned about the affect that UV and IR rays may have on their works. So they carefully explored bulb options and tested them for several years until they reached a solution they were happy with—using LED (light-emitting diodes) lighting.
Shedding a new light and a new problem
As they began retrofitting the bulbs in a few select galleries of the MIA something became blatantly obvious. Yes, the art looked great. The new lights improved the depth of the artwork, making it look crisp and detailed. The new lights were especially good at bringing out greens, blues and purples in the works. A big benefit indeed! However, the new light gave the surrounding walls an unpleasant yellow and purple tone that was a bit alarming. Hence, the installation was halted while the search for a new paint began. After more testing with wall colors, a solution was found. So as the new lights were installed, fresh paint also went up.
This science is beautiful and a big money saver
For The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the LED lighting technology advantages over the existing halogen light sources were clear—on several levels of comparison.
- A better quality of outdoor-style light brought to life the colorings of the artwork
- Cooler to operate which lowered the building’s cooling costs
New LED lighting improved the depth of the artwork, making it look crisp and detailed.
The LED technology emit no ultraviolet (UV) and very little infrared (IR) rays, reducing impact on the art itself
- Longer lasting bulbs saved over 1 hour in maintenance time every day of the year!
- 1.7 million in kilowatt savings ($149,000) per year, that’s enough electricity to power roughly 165 homes
- Xcel Energy Rebate value: $177,000
- Guards even mentioned an improvement in their moods
- Total cost: $388,000
- Payback: Less than one year
Summed up best by MIA lighting designer and technician, Karl Shapansky,
“Now that we’re saving $149,000 a year in electric bills, it’s easy to say we did the right thing.”
Read the complete case study here.