Words – Will Foster

Photographs – Edmund Sumner

Originally published in the Financial Times


I have the beginnings of an art collection and would like to know what options are available to retrospectively light it in my home?


Art and light are inseparable. Think of the early cave paintings created with fire as a light source, or St Ives artists painting with shimmering light bouncing off the sea around the Cornish coastal town. Recent technology has liberated lighting design. With the internet of things and the constant evolution of LED lights, you can utilise your house’s original wiring and recreate the lighting environment that artists may have used to produce their artworks. The best use of light lets art sing. Do not let it overpower, and remember that you have to contend with both natural and artificial sources. It can be tricky to get the colour “temperature” right. You would not want your beautiful black-and-white print to suddenly look more like a black-and-yellow print when it is lit artificially. A lighting track will give you the most flexibility as you can pick and choose the type of lighting, the amount and the angle. You can also be creative with programmed mood settings controlled via your mobile phone or a wireless control switch. A qualified electrician can swap your traditional pendant light for a universal lighting track without the need for rewiring.

Another retrofit solution is a hanging rail system by Hogarth Lighting. You run the system along your wall like a traditional picture rail. You can then hang your artwork with picture lights already neatly plugged in. This is an easy way to work with finished walls. Manufactures specialising in art lighting are helpful and knowledgeable so work closely with them to get the result you want. Start with ordering a small selection of fittings and select the best light lens to complement your art collection. Take your time, hang the art first and then test different fittings to find out what feels right for the space that frames it and for the artwork itself. Play with the colour temperature — do you like it warm or cool? Pay close attention to texture too. Today, there are many retrofit lighting systems on the market, each with advantages and disadvantages. Choose the one that feels most intuitive to you. Keep it simple and flexible so you can enjoy your art day and night.