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Royal Academy of Arts


About Project

The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in 1768 by King George III to promote the art of drawing through education and exhibitions. Based in Burlington House, in the heart of the English capital, the illustrious Academy continues to be one of the world’s leading centres for visual arts. In 2016, in order to improve the performance and efficiency of the existing lighting system, the Academy commissioned engineering firm ARUP to design a redevelopment project that would save energy and ensure installation flexibility, while also minimising maintenance. The new lighting system was unveiled on 23rd September 2017 for the Jasper Johns exhibition, “Something Resembling Truth”. This was the first anthology dedicated to the US artist in the last 40 years, featuring over 150 works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints from throughout the artist’s life.The project involved the installation of 1500 iGuzzini Palco LED projectors (ø 122 mm and ø 142 mm) featuring the patented OptiBeam Lens technology, which produces a uniform, well-defined light beam, devoid of chromatic aberrations. The wide range of accessories available in the Palco product family offers great versatility through a variety of flexible solutions and accents; this ensures that specific lighting effects can be created for each artwork or art display. The fact that the individual Palco components can be replaced (e.g. adapter, driver, accessories, Bluetooth module and LED chips), also facilitates maintenance and allows regularly updating the luminaires with the latest technology; this makes the system fully ‘future-proofed’. Palco luminaires fitted with Flood optics and elliptical lenses provide general and accent lighting in the main exhibition areas. 

They are also used for large-scale paintings, owing to their ability to illuminate surfaces evenly. Palco luminaires with 10° Spot and 5° SuperSpot optics provide accent lighting to small and medium-sizepaintings, as they illuminate the individual exhibits with uniform, well-defined cone-shaped beams of light. In particular, the 10° Palco Spot Optic projectors use Opti Beam reflectors and accessories (a special internal spill ring and a Soft lens filter) specifically designed for the Royal Academy to ensure full compliance with the customer’s brief. The luminaires chosen have a colour temperature of 2700 K – so that they can blend in 

with the halogen lamps still present in certain areas of Burlington House – as well as a high colour rendering index (CRI 97), even for critical colours such as red (R9>90). The installation enhances the chromatic nuances of the works on display, improving the conservation conditions by keeping UV and IR emissions to an absolute minimum. The LED chips used are within a 2-stepMacAdam ellipse, which guarantees long-term colour uniformity across the lighting installation. 

Moreover, the luminaires were especially painted to blend in with the colours of the exhibition halls and to create a sense of aesthetic consistency. They were also installed on pre-existing tracks, using adapters, in order to allow frequent scene changes. 

The use of special drivers featuring a dimming capability ranging from 100% to 0.1% coupled with the Casambi Bluetooth interface, which can be regulated via a simple app, emphasise the versatility of the lighting scheme. Last but not least, the system also features iBeacon technology, which could be activated communicate with visitors’ mobile devices within the beacon range, to convey information relating to relevant art pieces. ( Images are related to  “Charles I: King and Collector, 27.1 -15.4.2018 exhibition).

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  • Year:
  • Client:
    Royal Academy of Arts
  • Lighting project:
  • Photographer:
    James Newton

Project Quote

"Through several mock-ups, we compared the performance of luminaires provided by different manufacturers and evolved the specification to allow the lights to be controlled using the latest Bluetooth technology. This choice provides additional flexibility to the Royal Academy of Arts as it allows them to control the lighting [...] from a mobile application, something that will considerably minimise the time required for the set-upof shows and exhibitions."

Pavlina Akritas, Associate lighting designer, ARUP

"When you have installed an exhibition and the works are on the wall and in the space, it is as if the art is somehow inert, dormant, not yet activated. What makes everything come together is, literally, when the lights go on. […] Lighting is part art form, part science, and it is absolutely crucial to making artworks come alive in an exhibition."

Andrea Tarsia, Head of Exhibitions, Royal Academy of Arts

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