This is a subject that we touch on many times during the year. People who visit us are always asking: what is the best way to light the works of art we own?
There are a number of options here:
The first, and easiest, is natural light. This is not to say that you want to place your artwork in direct sunlight, but that the painting is lit by the indirect sunlight that filters into a room. While this is nice, you have to keep in mind that when there is no sunlight, your artwork is going to be very dark. If you decide to go this route, you may want to keep a few flashlights around so that in the evening or on a rainy day you can still enjoy your prized possessions!!
The second option is to light the works with the general room lights. While this method will not highlight any of the works in particular, it will give the room even lighting and is a little better than the natural lighting choice – though you may still need a flashlight or two!
The third option is the use of picture lights -- fixtures that are usually attached to the back of the frame and hang over the front of the painting. While these fixtures are available with incandescent, halogen and LED bulbs, you will achieve the best effect from the LED bulbs ... and today there are some great options. If you use one of these fixtures, be sure they are securely fastened to the frame; should they become loose, they will fall forward and can cause damage. In addition, these picture lights come in versions that can be placed below a work of art and shine up --- a great option for areas where you can hide the fixture – either behind a piece of furniture or on a mantle. If you decide on the ‘picture light’ option please keep in mind that the fixtures will need to be plugged into an outlet and if one has not been installed specifically for these fixtures (behind the work) you may see the electrical cords – not the prettiest of sights; though there are ways to camouflage them.
The fourth option is track lighting. This is often found in more contemporary homes and in many art galleries as it provides great flexibility. These lights are often placed on the ceiling and far enough from the works of art so that the heat generated by the blubs will have little effect on them. To achieve the best results, halogen or LED bulbs should be used; but make sure you check with your lighting specialist to determine the maximum wattage that can be placed in each fixture. The only drawback is that you will see the entire fixture … but today they do make some very small and attractive ones. Just so you know, this is the option we chose to use in our gallery.
Finally, the fifth option, and what we would say is the best for traditional home use, is recessed lighting that is specifically installed to illuminate the walls. Here the fixtures and, for the most part, bulbs are hidden in the ceiling creating a very clean look. The only drawback is that you do not have the flexibility of moving the actual fixtures around – which you do with track lighting.
Keep in mind that the one nice thing about these last two options is that all the fixtures/track are powered through wiring that is hidden in the ceilings and walls – no power cords hanging down from the bottom of your artwork.
After you have determined the type of lighting you are going to use you now have to decide how much lighting is needed and where the lights will be placed. If you decide to use options 1, 2 or 3 then there really isn’t much you need to be concerned with. If you are going to use options 4 or 5, then you will need to know the approximate size of the works you plan on hanging in each space and where each work will be viewed from.
Once you have all the basics information, I recommend that you enlist the help of a lighting specialist who will be able to configure the optimal lighting solution. Always remember, that it is better to err on the side of a little too much light, or should I say too many fixtures – especially when using the recessed option. You can always reduce the wattage of each bulb if you feel there is too much light; it is much more difficult to add another fixture once they are installed and evenly spaced.
I also recommend, for those of you who are currently involved in new construction, to plan ahead. It is much easier and cheaper to add a few specialty lights into a room while the ceilings and walls are still open --- not to mention, a lot neater. You may also want to do some research into all the lighting systems that are currently available. These systems not only give you the ability to adjust each fixture or track, but also will increase the life of the bulbs – sometimes as much as ten-fold. When we designed the gallery, our architect convinced us to use a Lutron system and while it was an expensive addition, we are very happy we did it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it is nice, if possible, to have the picture lights on a separate dimmer switch for additional flexibility. Sometimes it is nice to be able to sit in a room with only the artwork illuminated – if you have the ability and have never tried it, please do. I believe you will find that sitting in a room with a nice glass of wine (or a soda), listening to your favorite music and enjoying your artwork – is a very relaxing and pleasurable experience. Let’s face it, hopefully that is the main reason why you bought it … to enjoy it!
In the end, like most things, lighting is really a personal preference and you need to determine what is right for you, your room and your life style.
More eBay Bargains!
The other day I was looking through eBay to see what ‘stuff’ was being offered and I saw the following: Rare Monograph on Édouard Cortès. Hum, a rare monograph … maybe this was some long lost book and I had to take a look. As you can guess it was just a used copy of Édouard Cortès – Le Poète Parisien de la Peinture … yes, the book we offer for sale here in the gallery.
I watched, in amazement, as the book’s price began to climb; finally selling for $180.00 (plus $10.00 shipping) … and this was for a ‘used’ copy!
In case you are wondering, we still have a few new copies left and if you would like one they are currently priced at $100 (including postage within the Continental United States). This price discrepancy could open the doors for a little arbitrage action!! Oh, and one more point, if you live in New York State, please add the sales tax.
This is Art?
Back in March (Volume 15) I made a few comments on the Turner Prize winner, but I am truly sorry that I did not see the special that ran on CBS in mid-February concerning the elephant painters. Well, as luck would have it, the show ran again this past month and I was lucky enough to see part of it.
Now I know what you are thinking … what is wrong with artists painting pictures of elephants, and if this was the case that would have been nice to see; but in this case, the elephants were being taught to paint … and to top it off, their work has been sold through some of the major auction rooms.
As the story goes (told on the air by Bob Simon and also available on the CBS News.com site) two … New York City artists [(sorry, but I could not even think of giving these ‘artists’ any more publicity, so I will use their initials)] V.K. and A.M. went to Thailand to teach elephants to paint so their works could be sold to help support them and their masters, out of work since the forest logging industry that employed them was outlawed. Holding up a print of a work by the renowned abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning and placing it alongside a similar-looking painting from the trunk of an elephant named Lukop, [one of the artists stated] the two examples are “absolutely” in the same genre.
When asked by Simon if he means that Lukop is as good as de Kooning or that both are examples of nonsense, A.M. replies, “It’s either or, but it doesn’t really matter as soon as the people buy it and enjoy it … you have to believe it,” he says. Art or nonsense, people are buying it. Auctions at reputable houses such as Christie’s have seen elephant art sold for as high as $2,000, out-doing many works produced by two-legged artists.
Critic and curator Mia Fineman tells Simon why. “What I like about the quality of her brush strokes is the sort of slowness and sensuality, the way she sort of swirls the brush, mixes the colors on the paper,” says Fineman of the work painted by an elephant named Pratida.
Okay … I am still laughing … artists teaching elephants to paint, critics critiquing their works and people buying them for their artistic merit? There is definitely something wrong here. I wonder if these pachyderms will be signing their works and will they come with ‘certificates of authenticity’. Let’s face it, some day these works may become very valuable and you will want to make sure that you have an original and not a copy done by some stateside pachyderm!! And what about our stateside friends? Could you imagine visiting your local zoo and finding out that the elephants are unavailable that day because they are on a field trip to the local museum to study the masters!!
Gallery Updates: If you plan on stopping in for a visit during the month of September, please remember that our hours are Monday – Thursday 10:00am – 5:30pm and all other times by appointment.
New works by Eugene H. Cauchois, Heidi Coutu and Felix Schlesinger have been added to the Online Inventory.
Virtual Exhibitions: This month we have added two works to – Rehs Galleries: A Visual History… The first is a beautiful sentimental British Victorian genre painting by Charles Burton Barber entitled Off to School and features a young girl crossing the street, escorted by her St. Bernard. The painting dates from 1883 and was sold by the gallery in 1987. The second work is a spectacular American Impressionist painting by Griffith Bailey Coale titled The Baltimore Flower Market – 1915 and was sold by the gallery in 1988.
We have also added 8 works to the Édouard Cortès exhibition and additional works to the Aston Knight and Sally Swatland exhibits.
Next Month: We will answer the question – Can I clean my works of art?
To subscribe to our monthly Comments On The Art Market newsletter, click here.