The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam the Netherlands is one of the oldest art museums in the Netherlands. While many artworks are created in natural daylight, few museums make an effort to showcase the art pieces in this way.
On the one hand, the museum wanted to show the artwork in natural daylight. However, natural daylight is known to contain UV and IR rays which are known to damage paintings over time. The museum began a long process of improving its lighting about eight years ago.
While the museum originally used fluorescent and halogen lighting. At the time, some of the applications including some of the spotlights had no LED lighting alternative. So Philips Lighting created one.
The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen houses a collection of paintings, sculptures, and utensils that offer an artistic overview from the early Middle Ages up to the 21st century. The collection features masterpieces by Rembrandt, Bosch, and Van Gogh, all the way to more modern artists including Dalí, along with contemporary designs. The monumental building was constructed so that the art collection can be shown in daylight.
Peter Struychen Asked to Choose Lighting
The museum tasked visual artist Peter Struycken with choosing the new lighting. He created a test installation that illuminated a work of art with daylight on one side, and LED light in combination with fluorescent lighting on the other side. He subjected various LED lights to extensive visual testing to make appear as similar as possible.
“Philips produced a number of LED spotlights which showed a strongly improved color rendering in conjunction with the museum’s fluorescent lighting. That was an inspiring moment,” Struycken said. Over various stages, the Philips LED spotlight was upgraded from 4,500 K (which proved to be too low) to 6,000 K (slightly too high). Then, a color temperature of 5,700 K finally proved to be ideal.
“About eight years ago, we started a process to improve the lighting in our museum,” Cathy Jacob, Head of Exhibitions at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, explained. “Our aim was to recreate daylight quality by using artificial lighting. We ended up with a combination of two different types of fluorescent lighting – warm and cold – in combination with a daylight halogen spotlight. We were reasonably satisfied with the result until the halogen bulb was phased out and we had to switch to LED lighting. Since LED lighting was not available with the quality we wanted, a LED spotlight had to be specially developed for us.”
Visitors to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Hardly Barely Notice Illumination
You barely notice that the paintings are illuminated. That is the point in using the LED lighting, to make it as close to daylight as possible. Of course, other demands also had to be taken into account, such as the preservation and protection of the artworks. Also, the artificial lights had to be pleasant and without glare that would be uncomfortable for visitors. An additional goal for the lighting was energy efficiency. However, most importantly, the artworks had to be shown the way the artist intended.
Cathy Jacob said, “We had to take a large step forward with our lighting and Peter Struycken had a clear vision for that. Particularly on achieving excellent color rendering when recreating daylight.”
“In the past, daylight entered through skylights in the roof, and was filtered and directed so there were no shadows and all the rooms were evenly lit. This type of lighting is no longer recommended for works of art because of excessive exposure to UV light and poor control over the amount of light.”
Cathy Jacob said, “In combination with the new spotlights, we want our visitors to view the paintings without really noticing that they are illuminated.”
After the extensive testing, Struycken found that a combination of the 5700K Philips StyliD PerfectBeam Variable Spot augmented with fluorescent lighting provided the ideal light for the artworks.
The spotlight features a zoom lens that makes the beam the exact size of the object that it is showcasing. This also ensures that the artwork is free from any halos. Another benefit of the StyliD Perfect Beam Spotlight is that it can be easily dimmed without changing its color as would happen with conventional halogen lighting. Moreover, LEDs do not emit damaging IR or UV light, thereby ensuring that the aging process will not be accelerated. Also, the spotlight consumes just 21W compared to the 50W Halogen it replaces.
Unannounced Test of StyliD Spotlight
Without announcing a test, the StyliD PerfectBeam Variable Spot was first employed during the exhibition entitled ‘Mad About Surrealism.’ Cathy Jacob said, “We were surprised that visitors started giving us unsolicited compliments about the light and the natural looking colors. Those compliments varied from ‘such beautiful colors’ to ‘now we can finally see the artwork the way the artist intended it’. International delegations of other museums also praised the colors of the artworks.”