Caspar Atherton / 01 / 10 / 17
Optelma collaborated with the lighting team at Hoare Lea to design the display lighting for ‘Drawn from Life’, an exhibition of works by Marc Quinn at the Sir John Soane’s Museum. The exhibition features twelve ethereal fragmentary sculptures, made from life casts of Marc Quinn embracing his muse – collectively titled ‘All About Love’.
Due to the temporary nature of the Exhibition and the character of the Grade 1 listed, 19th-century townhouse, the design was challenging. The vast collection on display, the need not to disturb the building fabric, and a lack of electrical supply points, meant a conventional solution was not possible.
Instead, Optelma worked with Hoare Lea to devise a solution using battery powered spotlights. Careful consideration was given to the locations of spotlights and batteries, and the lighting effects required by the artist. MR16 replacement LED lamps were used in a variety of beam angles and intensities to suit each piece. The colour temperature of 2700oK adds warmth, complementing the grand domestic setting. Placed to the back or front, individual spotlights light each sculpture creating a simple but compelling effect, which prevents multiple shadows and ensures attention remains focussed on the artwork.
Mounting locations for the spotlights and batteries were assessed to ensure each artwork is lit successfully and to prevent damage to the fabric. Nothing is permanently fixed – spotlights are clamped to interior mouldings or positioned on shelves and bookcases. The bespoke spotlights, designed by Optelma, feature a weighted base for stability and an articulated head, which allows adjustment and precise aiming of light.
Concealed within purpose-made boxes at floor-level, the batteries give sixteen hours of service. There are two sets – one is operational while the other is charging. The batteries are connected by a user-friendly jack-plug system which allows Museum staff to swap them easily.
Sir John Soane is famed for his ability to use daylight within his architecture. In the Museum, many rooms have lots of daylight, while in other spaces natural light is limited. By allowing lamps to be changed and the intensity of beam width to be altered, the simple ‘spotlight’ solution accommodates these variations.
With Hoare Lea, Optelma also designed a solution for The Foyle Space, an area dedicated to changing exhibitions. This room lacked lighting at its centre. A 2000mm made to measure circular extrusion was introduced within the glazed cupola at high-level. This features a series of jack points to allow spotlights to be added and incorporates drivers and a mounting plate for the smoke detector. Painted the same RAL cream colour as the mounting surface, the extrusion merges with the interior and is inconspicuous when viewed from below.
Joanna Tinworth Exhibitions Curator at Sir John Soane’s Museum says: ‘One of the most distinctive things about Sir John Soane’s Museum is its light, and the range of stunning effects that Soane conjured using rooflights, coloured glass and mirrors. This, coupled with the density of objects around the Museum and the constraints of a Grade I listed building, made lighting Marc Quinn’s ‘Drawn from Life’ exhibition a huge challenge. Hoare Lea, with Optelma, came up with a highly innovative solution, which is both sensitive to Quinn’s sculptures and to the backdrop of the Museum and its remarkable collection.’