TM Lighting – using specialist art lighting for the London Design Festival installations at the V&A

Main Image: Transmission a collaboration between Alcantara and British designer, Ross Lovegrove, on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Tapestry Gallery for London Design Festival. Photograph by Edmund Sumner

In September 2017, TM Lighting, British designers and manufacturers of specialist LED art lighting products, partnered with architectural lighting designers, SEAM Design to light Ross Lovegrove’s installation Transmission, presented by Alcantara at The Victoria & Albert Museum as part of London Design Festival

The collaboration between TM Lighting and SEAM Design follows a number of successful projects working together in previous years to light world-class installations for London Design Festival, displayed at the V&A. Championing innovation and excellence in lighting design, SEAM Design have provided lighting design for landmark installations at the V&A since 2011, and TM Lighting have provided their superior LED lighting products for previous editions of London Design Festival at V&A including FOIL, by Benjamin Hubert, Layer, in 2016, and the Ogham Wall installation by Grafton Architects in 2015.

Ogham Wall installation by Grafton Architects - London Design Festival 2015. Photograph by Ed Reeve

Transmission was a collaboration between Alcantara and British designer, Ross Lovegrove, on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Tapestry Gallery for London Design Festival. Inspired by the 15th century Devonshire Hunting Tapestries at the V&A, Lovegrove created a spectacular 21-metre-long fluid and free-standing three-dimensional tapestry, made entirely from Alcantara®, the renowned Italian material. A tactile and pliable material, the soft undulating folds of the installation reflect and highlight both colours and forms of the medieval tapestries. The versatility of the material is highlighted in the different methods of treatment, including colouring and embellishment.

Transmission at the London Design Festival 2017. Photograph by Edmund Sumner

New technologies and unique elements

SEAM Design’s lighting design for Lovegrove’s visionary installation required specialist LED accent spot lights to illuminate the installation. SEAM Design specified TM Lighting’s products owing to TM’s continued research and investment into a range of products that matches and often surpasses museum-grade lighting in terms of light quality and light distribution.

TM Lighting is the designer and manufacturer of a new generation of LED lighting products for the art market. As the UK’s leading specialists in lighting art, the company has reinvented classic picture light design with the latest lighting technology to create specialist luminaires that deliver superior art lighting with a true representation of the full spectrum of colour for private collections in residential settings and historic houses. Using the same technology, TM Lighting has extended its portfolio to contemporary art lighting products, including a range of spotlights to meet the needs of galleries, interior designers, architects and institutions. TM Lighting’s simple and unobtrusive lighting fittings place emphasis on colour accuracy, achievable with a unique balance of colour rendition, colour temperature and colour consistency.

This year, to illuminate Transmission, TM Lighting utilised their new Gallery 150 LED spotlight which provides a focused beam ideal for museum ceiling heights (typically over 6 metres) to beautifully highlight the undulating folds and loops in Alcantara’s® unique textural material, framing scenes within the V&A’s historic tapestries, whilst also considering conservation light levels to preserve the delicate fabrics.


At this year's London Design Festival, TM Lighting utilised their new Gallery 150 LED spotlight. Photograph by by Edmund Sumner

The innovative Gallery 150 accent spotlight features ‘snap in’ magnetic lenses that allow for changing the beam width with ease and simplicity. Local dimming allows for ultimate control to set exact Lux levels, especially important in light sensitive spaces. Available with 9, 25, 36, 60 and linear spreader lenses, the ultra-narrow beam of 9 degrees allows more precise control for tall ceiling spaces, typical in museums and galleries. As with TM Lighting’s full range of LED luminaires the Gallery 150 ensures no forward heat throw or UV rays which can be potentially damaging to works of art.

Design Concept

The design concept for Transmission was to provide specialist lighting that would bring out the rich colours within the unique fabric, which had been specially dyed to colour-match tones within the surrounding tapestries, and delicately light the top edges in the loops of Alcantara® allowing viewers to intuitively consider the tapestry through the evocative folds of the material. The design of the artwork framed themes and scenes within the tapestries to view through the folds, creating an interactive experience for visitors, which merges design, creativity and art. It was therefore important for the lighting to be carefully positioned, working within tight angles to highlight the textures and faces of the frames only, and not the sides of the folds.

Through a simple system, the lighting provided multi-layered experiences of the Transmission as the centrepiece by illuminating the continuous ribbon of fabric as well as the surrounding historical tapestries in the room. It’s shaped to create a continuous curtain of light that falls on the edges of the folds on both sides of the sculpture, where visitors could appreciate and experience the finer details of the piece.

Aim of the Design

The aim of the design was to create a hierarchy of light that did not detract from the tapestries themselves, whilst focusing the attention on Transmission. The challenge was to feature the installation as a centrepiece and connect it to the tapestries, to create an artistic balance and ambiance. Whist Transmission is the singular sculptural object in the room, it also invited visitors to experience the tapestries in a different way by framing elements of their compositions through the loops. The balance of the light projecting onto the centrepiece and tapestries helped to tie these pieces together to create an immersive art experience.

The lighting made the colours rich and vibrant, highlighting the gold thread detail to create a beautiful undulating highlight of continual light along the top of the folds where a 2700K warm light level was implemented to work with the dimly lit, serenity and stillness of the Tapestry Gallery.

Lighting brief

TM Lighting and SEAM Design worked closely with London Design Festival’s project managers and the V&A’s curators of the Tapestry Gallery, to ensure the main objective of the lighting brief was achieved; to illuminate the contemporary installation to create a centrepiece, whilst also considering the preservation of the fragile 15th Century tapestries within the museum environment, ensuring the lux levels remained below 50 lux.

SEAM Design carried out careful testing carrying out photometric calculations of the lux levels throughout installation. A major achievement of the project was discovering the installation required half of the spotlights originally specified, showing the superior performance of TM’s new Gallery 150 spotlight. The original design utilised 24 x Gallery 150 TM spotlights. The project ended up using half of the quantity (x 12), evenly spaced with linear spread lenses and dimmed to approximately 50% output to highlight the tapestry loops. The LEDs used emits no ultraviolet and extremely low infra-red (<0.5%), ensuring the delicate pigments were conserved, with 100% of direct lighting focussed on the sculpture installation.

TM Lighting is committed to sustainability in fine art and the environment, engaging the latest technology to address current energy savings legislation. At TM Lighting, the process of lighting a work of art is considered an art in itself – from design to implementation.

Key considerations the TM Lighting product range include:

Quality of Light

  • Engages carefully selected LEDs that enhance the artwork
  • Use same LED chip (bulb) throughout the range to ensure consistency
  • Ensures even light distribution
  • Achieves precise lux levels on each art work through individually dimmable switches (either locally or remotely)
  • Snap-on lenses include narrow, medium, wide, flood and linear spread lenses
  • Colour filters can be magnetically affixed to change the colour temperature to suit specific exhibitions.

Energy Saving and Maintenance

  • TM Lighting’s Gallery 150 accent lights use less energy than traditional gallery lighting and are more efficient
  • The lamp life of TM Lighting’s Gallery 150 range of designs is 50,000 hours compared with 3000 hours typically for halogen lamps – a significant maintenance saving
  • TM Lighting products are Part L compliant
  • TM Lighting Gallery 150 utilises 96+CRI LED light source with quick focus snap on lenses for simple focusing during exhibition set-up
  • Individual lights can be locally dimmed to ensure the exact power and light output is utilised for each exhibit

Art Conservation

  • All TM Lighting’s can be locally dimmed to adhere to the CIBSE Lighting Guide LG8 for museums and art galleries relevant to the artwork or exhibit’s medium.
  • TM Lighting’s designs are extremely sensitive to the object or artwork it is enhancing through light. Therefore, each design protects the object by not emitting the most damaging sections of the light spectrum such as ultra violet and infrared light
  • Each design emits no forward heat
  • Each design ensures correct lux level for delicate artwork with individual light level adjustment

The main challenge in lighting Transmission, as with previous installations in this space, was ensuring the lighting design was entirely focussed on the installation and not the delicate tapestries. Careful monitoring of the ambient light levels was undertaken to ensure levels did not reach beyond 50 lux. The 15th century tapestries are priceless, fragile pieces of art, which are therefore sensitive to UV light. This design consideration was accommodated by using the best choice of spotlights and UV levels.

Warming filters were also utilised to draw out the depth and richness of the colours and textures of the fabric to create a ‘light curtain’ across the folds of the sculpture. This accentuates the continuous ribbon that occupies the length of the Tapestry Room. The result is a balance between the lighting of the tapestries and lighting for the sculpture that creates an interaction between Transmission and the tapestries, where the tapestries can be viewed in a new dimension. Sometimes their beauty and detail is overlooked, but the innovative lighting design brought a new way of viewing the pieces, showcasing the beautiful colours, textures and detail that invites the viewer to appreciate these aspects in a new perspective.