Museums | Facilities | Art Institute of Chicago |

Art Institute of Chicago LED Lighting Standard

Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL | 2015

The AIC is going LED

What It Was

After Lightswitch Architectural designed the lighting for the museum’s first all-LED gallery in late 2014, it returned to design the lighting for AIC's forthcoming, redesigned medieval gallery. During the design process, we found a groundbreaking, digital, color-tunable LED lamp that will also be used to retrofit other gallery and exhibit spaces in the future.

What We Did

To identify a lighting solution that would meet AIC's rigorous quality standards, we conducted a series of mock-ups using various LED replacement lamps to illuminate pieces from the collection and other artwork. After an initial mock-up of religious paintings and medieval armor proved successful, we arranged a side-by-side mock-up that compared the existing sources with AIC's preferred LED option from the first trial. We illuminated two paintings in Claude Monet’s Haystacks series with PAR38 LED lamps from Ketra, Inc., while the others remained lit by incandescent PAR38s and MR16s. To ensure the ideal color temperature and rendering were achieved—a must for fine art installations—we color tuned the Ketra sources to match the incandescents and then compared the CRI, illuminance levels and spectral power distribution of the sources. Twenty AIC staff, including art curators and the museum’s CEO and COO, analyzed the results and selected the LED option.

Why It Worked

We recognize the importance that quality lighting plays in maintaining the AIC’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost art museums. As a result, we treated the museum’s collections as if they were our own and undertook a careful, measured approach to lighting them. Through detailed research and in-depth testing, we found a color-tunable, high-CRI LED source that will not only reduce AIC’s energy use and maintenance, but will also enable it showcase its art in the best possible light. Photos George Lambros