After an extensive 10-year renovation, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam reopened its doors earlier this month to visitors coming to see the work of Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. In addition to the 17th century masterpieces, those visitors will also be treated to a marvel of the 21st century: LED lighting. Three-quarters of a million LEDs from Philips now light the museum’s 7,500 works of art and over 100,000 square feet of space. The Rijksmuseum is joining a rapidly growing number of art museums that have already switched to this light source, including the Louvre in Paris, France, the Kunstkammer Wien in Vienna, Austria, the De An Art Gallery in Zhongshan City, China, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas. There is even a newly created LinkedIn group focused on LED lighting for art and museums.
When choosing a light source, the two primary considerations for any art museum are the visitor experience and the preservation of artwork. For both of these considerations, LED lighting is the clear frontrunner. Light quality and color rendering from LEDs have advanced to a point where Tim Zeedijk, the head of exhibitions at the Rijksmuseum, said that the recent lighting upgrade “allows the art to be viewed in the best light possible to bring out all the colors and details that the artist intended us to see.”
Regarding artwork preservation, reducing the exposure to ultraviolet light is a key strategy. Fluorescent, halogen, and high-intensity discharge lighting all emit UV light, forcing art museums to use filters and limit the amount of time that any individual piece is on display. LED lighting, on the other hand, emits no UV light, relieving a significant concern for curators and giving them new flexibility. All of the other benefits of LED lighting also apply to museums, including reduced electricity consumption and longer-lived lamps.
Art museums provide another example of a specific application where LED lighting is already the best choice. Others include cold storage facilities, where the efficiency benefits of LEDs are doubled by the savings in cooling energy, and high-ceiling atriums where the cost of replacing burned out lamps is exorbitant. As the quality of LEDs continues to improve and the price of LEDs continues to fall, the list of applications where LED lighting is the best choice will continue to grow. This combination of factors has led Navigant Research to forecast that unit sales of LED lamps will increase worldwide at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44%, as reported in our recently released study, Energy Efficient Lighting for Commercial Markets.