Prioritising conservation, efficiency and aesthetic through lighting: Q&A with Enigma Lighting

Image: Soraa lighting technologies at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum © Dan Paton

To assess the full potential of lighting solutions in the sector, we caught up with Paul Shoosmith, sales director at Enigma Lighting, to discuss everything museums and galleries can do to better conserve artworks, maximise efficiency and improve the aesthetic of a space. 

What should museums take into consideration when selecting which varieties of lighting are best suited for any given exhibition?

Lighting plays a multitude of roles within an exhibition space. It plays a vital role in guiding visitors through their experience; communicating drama or serenity within the exhibition space; and setting the mood of the exhibition space. It can be used to draw the eye to stunning artwork and sculptures with the play of light and dark used to guide the visitor’s journey from entrance to exit.

With developments in LED lighting and technology, it is possible to conserve art, accurately render colours in fragile objects and minimise the effects of light damage.

Through selecting a low light level in a museum space directional lighting, such as the Enigma Lighting Tubular Track and Spot range, it can be used to illuminate specific pieces but also to guide through the space. This technique provides an optimal balance that delivers superior viewing experiences with lower light exposure.

Soraa LED lamps and luminaires are designed with museum, gallery and art collectors’ needs in mind. Whether illuminating vibrant modern art with Soraa’s full spectrum LEDs to accurately render all colours, or using Soraa Snap System lenses to enhance a faded object’s vividness, Soraa products can help conserve exhibits.

Whilst maintaining a low light level, illuminating artwork with a high-end driver that dims without flicker is important for both viewing experience and to avoid Stroboscopic flicker headaches. Soraa’s drivers, including its MR16 two-stage driver, offer flicker-free light so people can enjoy exhibitions without bothersome flicker.

Soraa has been responsible for the lighting solutions at London's Stern Pissarro Gallery © Gavriil Papadiotis

What impact can lighting have on pieces of art – in terms of colour and tone, for example?

Being a largely a visual experience, it is important for visitors to see a true reflection of what is in front of them. Light is crucial when accentuating colours within a work of art. Adding context to an exhibit requires the best colour rendition. LEDs, such as Soraa VIVID for example, bring out every colour in intricate works of art to maximise the viewing experience.

Additionally, light sources with a high-quality beam distribution directed appropriately to avoid light spillage and glare that can cause unnecessary degradation. The beam quality of the light source is of utmost importance. Soraa’s optics are carefully crafted to deliver the best beams. They provide narrow beam angles (down to four degrees) with a clean beam shape and low glare and spill for excellent control of light direction. This avoids glare and spillage that may cause damage to other works of art, but also adds to the accurate display of the work on show.

At Enigma Lighting we love the flexibility of the versatile Soraa Snap System which allows users to easily customise directional beams. Use beam spreaders to achieve more complex beam shapes, CCT shifters to perfect ambiences and colour-enhancing filters to restore the vividness of faded objects.

Carefully considering the spectrum of light emitted can also improve the trade-off between accurate colour rendition and conservation.

An exhibit at the Ashmolean Museum illuminated by Soraa © Dan Paton

With museum budgets having been put under increasing strain over the past decade, how can lighting choices make operations more intelligent and efficient?

In terms of efficiency the benefits of LED over halogen are well known these days. The costs of running an LED lamp are considerably lower than halogen and of course have a lifespan of over 40,000 running hours. The conversion to LED is the smart choice, with retrofit options there is no requirement to purchase a whole new fixture, keeping your lighting scheme sustainable over the long term and energy efficient.

We also advise our clients with timed illumination. Smart lighting options again improve efficiency and also protect the exhibits themselves.  Through only illuminating art when visitors are present in the room, or for short periods of time lighting controls enable both intelligent and efficient lighting schemes.

Paintings sensitively lit by Soraa at the Stern Pissarro © Gavriil Papadiotis

What do you consider to be some of the lighting challenges specific to museums and heritage sites?

Within museum and heritage spaces there is often the consideration of Listed Building and Conservation Status. This brings with it associated access and fixing issues. Working on projects where the protection of space is a priority requires full team coordination and time to ensure the success of the installation. There is always a solution; wireless controls, for instance, avoid invasive cabling work.

What are the primary benefits for museums when choosing Enigma as their lighting solutions provider?

At Enigma Lighting service is at the forefront of what we do. From our initial meeting to discuss a client’s project requirements right through to project completion, our dedicated team are on hand to ensure that the process is a smooth one. Our industry knowledge on light sources, products and compatibility ensure every project has the most appropriate lighting and control, on the budget you require for your project.

Also, we don’t operate in isolation at Enigma Lighting, we carry out projects across the interiors spectrum, we know that interiors innovations for example within the workplace sector can be incorporated across other sectors.  We use our industry wide experience and expertise to ensure your project delivers the brief. We work alongside a wide range of design and interiors companies who are continually seeking innovative methods of design – being surrounded by enthusiastic people brings an excitement to the projects we work on.

Enigma's Tubular 60 GU10 © Enigma Lighting

How is Enigma’s relationship with Soraa structured, and what does collaboration between the companies means for the sector at large?

Enigma Lighting are proud to be a Master Distributor and have Soraa as part of our collection of superior lighting brands. The variety of options in respect of colour, beam angle, beam control, wattage and quality is unrivalled. Our partnership with one of the most innovative brands in lighting demonstrates their trust in the depth of knowledge and expertise that we at Enigma Lighting can bring to any project.

Having the support of a global leader, who trust and approve our products for use with their technology allows us to offer the very best solutions on the market on a budget which has previously been unobtainable. Superior quality on an affordable budget is a positive to both the lighting sector and is key to the museum and heritage sector who often hold charitable status and budget is imperative.