Article

Slowing down gallery visitors

Slowing down gallery visitors

Simon Mundine

Article author

Simon Mundine

Art galleries, like museums, movies, or the latest Netflix series, rely on capturing the attention of their audience in order to survive and thrive. As numerous media articles remind us, we are in an age of constant distraction and limited focus.

So how can a gallery create an environment which not only attracts visitors, but encourages them to linger?

Lack of time.

What is the problem?

Art galleries can often find themselves on ‘must visit’ lists in cities and towns across the world. Famous galleries will attract visitors from far and wide, and whether it’s Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris or Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, there are some artworks capable of drawing huge crowds. Yet, even world-famous artworks may only capture the attention for barely a few minutes. For lesser-known or smaller galleries, these figures may be even more challenging.

In fact, two different studies carried out in the USA set out to discover how much time people spent looking at well-known artworks. One study found the mean time was 27.2 seconds, and the other found a remarkably similar result with a mean time of 28.63 seconds. Any visitor to an art gallery has likely observed fellow visitors who look at the exhibition through the screen of their phone, photographing or recording artworks for them to (theoretically) look back on at a later point.

The reality is that spending such limited time looking at a piece of art doesn’t allow for full appreciation. Dwelling so briefly doesn’t give time to appreciate the different characters in the background of a crowded scene, the texture of brush strokes, the nuances of colour, or the subtle messages of political or social commentary which artists often hide for those who take the time to look closer.

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The role of lighting

One professor of Art History at Harvard University in the USA considers it so important to take distraction-free time to appreciate a piece of art that it forms the basis of one of her first assignments to new students. They’re instructed to pick a gallery and a piece of art, and to go and look at it, uninterrupted, for three hours. Having dedicated that time, details they may have otherwise missed will become apparent.

Whether a large, renowned gallery or a small, commercial venue with a dedicated local following, when visitors dwell for longer this can result in a more enjoyable - and potentially profitable - experience. Creating a welcoming atmosphere is essential, and that’s where lighting plays a vitally important role.

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As with so many elements of design, lighting is often noticed most when it’s executed poorly; such as a badly-lit changing room in a store or the harsh and cold light of a hospital waiting room. But when lighting has been well planned it enhances a space, creating atmosphere and drawing attention to the most significant or attractive elements or displays. The same is true for great gallery lighting.

A thoughtful approach

to the lighting scheme

In a gallery, the stars of the show are the artworks and lighting must ensure that they are shown at their very best. This requires a layered approach to the lighting scheme, with a well-considered and balanced combination of general and focused lighting. General lighting provides ambience and helps a visitor navigate around the space. Alongside this, spotlight fixtures such as track lighting heads can frame individual artworks or displays.

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Effectively lighting artworks ensures that the finer details are visible, whatever the medium or subject matter, and enabling all of these details to be appreciated gives the visitor reason to linger. Any accompanying signs or descriptions should also be well-lit, again encouraging a longer dwell time.

Which light to choose test?

An integral part of displaying artwork at its best is ensuring that lights have a high CRI, or colour rendering index, value. The Colour Rendering Index value of a light refers to how accurately colours are represented. A CRI value over 90 means that colours will be presented at their truest and most vibrant, whereas a low CRI value would mean that they appear dull and muted.

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The lighting scheme helps to create the atmosphere within a gallery. It’s important that the space should feel inviting, as harsh, sterile, lighting can be a deterrent. Ambience can be influenced by the colour temperature of the lights chosen. Lights with a cool colour temperature, around 6000K (the K standing for Kelvins) are similar to natural daylight and promote focus and concentration. Warmer temperatures, around 3000K, are closer to candle or firelight and help support a relaxed atmosphere.

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Conclusion

By considering all aspects of a lighting solution, from where to place lights and the types of fixtures to qualities such as colour temperature, you can help to create a space in which your visitors want to spend longer.

Book a free consultation with our art gallery lighting specialist.

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Banno Lighting is located in Brooklyn, NYC. We are a small family owned business who specialize in Art Gallery Lighting.

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Banno Lighting

172 Suydam St Unit 4 R Brooklyn, New York, 11221

(347) 308 6016

Banno Lighting

172 Suydam St Unit 4 R Brooklyn, New York, 11221

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