23 April 2019
Incorrect lighting can damage the museum collection. How can this be prevented? Kees van den Meiracker shared his expertise on developments in the lighting field during the PACCIN conference.
During the PACCIN, Kees van den Meiracker (Head of Collection Management & Restoration) held a lecture on the Van Gogh Museum’s lighting policy. He addressed the impact of light on the quality of the museum collection and spoke about determining policy frameworks for lighting. This can help to prevent damage due to incorrect lighting wherever possible.
Vincent van Gogh’s works are famous all around the world and cherished for their bright colours and powerful compositions. The Van Gogh Museum wants to make the works of Van Gogh accessible to as many people as possible by properly displaying them in exhibitions and agreeing to loans to international museums.
However, the museum also has the duty to preserve the collection for future generations, preferably in its current condition. The artworks can be best preserved by limiting exposure to light wherever possible. Light can cause some colours in Van Gogh’s works to fade.
Certain pigments in Van Gogh’s works are sensitive to light and discolour over time. In order to keep light damage to a minimum, we therefore need to strike a balance between properly displaying the art and lighting the galleries on the one hand, and on the other, limiting the exposure of the works to too much light.
The paintings that Vincent van Gogh made after September 1885 are in the most vulnerable category. We call these ISO 1. Maximum illumination of 50 lux has been determined for this category, with a maximum UV reduction. This lighting is used wherever required in the museum.
New research will need to ascertain whether the works from Van Gogh’s Dutch period before 1885 should also be added to this category. 50 lux was already the norm for works on paper. Significant considerations when determining the maximum illumination include the level of discolouration deemed acceptable and the associated maximum lighting duration.
In the future, more research will be required into how certain pigments discolour, in order to continue refining lighting policy and conserve and exhibit Van Gogh’s paintings in the best possible manner.
More about discolouration
How did Van Gogh’s paintings look just after he painted them? This was researched in the REVIGO project. What was the conclusion? Van Gogh’s daring colours were originally even brighter.