Guildhall Art Gallery, London, UK

Art & Exhibitions

The Guildhall art Gallery has undergone a major lighting replacement project in conjunction with a transformational rehang for the first time in 15 years. Many of the works have never been on show before. In the Victorian display alone, 70% of works represent a completely new curatorial selection; through imaginative use of space, the overall number of paintings on show has been doubled. Visitor numbers have also tripled in the weeks following the galleries reopening.

The Guildhall Art gallery designed by Richard Gilbert Scott and completed in the late 1990’s.  Designed to house the City of London’s art collection of over 4500 works dating back over 400 years. The gallery lighting was originally based around backlit tented ceilings with perimeter coves and further adjustable downlights around the perimeter of the tented ceilings. Unfortunately after a decade and half of operation there were several major issues with the lighting of the gallery. The lighting replacement project was originally conceived as a maintenance project to replace the obsolete main dimming fluorescent lighting and reduce the lamp replacement cycle.  Following European regulation changes replacement mains dimming fluorescent ballasts were no longer available, resulting in dark areas in the tented ceilings were the ballasts had failed and could not be replaced. Added to this there was a lamp replacements maintenance cycle of 2-3 years with an associated cost of £50,000.00 to remove and refit the tented ceilings.

dpa conducting a site review of the gallery lighting.  This revealed a further issue with the lighting levels within the gallery. Our measurements showed the light levels were higher in the centre of the gallery with an average of 300 lux than on the artwork where in places it dropped below 70 lux rendering the artwork under lit and creating a dull, low contrast environment within the gallery.  Part of the issue was due to the downlights being located too far from the artwork and being unable to adjust sufficiently to illuminate the artwork.

The dpa lighting concept for the gallery involved a complete rethink of the gallery lighting concept.  The perimeter coves were removed to reduce the visible brightness of the ceiling as these had previously been the brightest point in the gallery.  The downlights were removed and replaced by track and spot LEDs luminaires giving greater flexibility and allowing all the artworks to be correctly illuminated.  The tented ceilings were then replaced with a flat stretched fabric ceiling to give the gallery a cleaner more modern aesthetic allowing the focus to be on the artwork and reducing replacement costs.  In addition to the new lighting a DALi based dimming system was installed allowing the curators the option of controlling individual luminaires and thus the ability to create a lighting scene tailored to each individual artwork. The LED luminaires were also carefully selected for both their efficiency and long life.  The track mounted spot lights have a LM70 of 200,000 hrs and the linear LEDs behind the stretched ceilings have a LM70 of 50,000 hrs.  However to achieve the correct lighting level of 250-300 lux on the artwork and 100 lux general ambient lighting the linear LEDs are dimmed to 15% significantly under running the LEDs further extending their life.  The estimated maintenance cycle being reduce to 11 yrs and energy cost reduced by £14,000.00 annually.