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Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces, ,

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

Be it a museum sculpture garden, an exhibit in a private area outdoors or an artwork displayed in a public park: bring outdoor art to life at night and create unique visitor experiences. Each work of art is individual and requires different lighting strategies and lighting tools for perfect display. ERCO offers robust luminaires for outdoor areas with the lighting technology of high quality museum lighting. Exciting lighting concepts can be created thanks to a maximum diversity of light distributions, excellent color rendering and precise optics: ranging from dramatic accentuation to uniform floodlighting and suitable for all types of art outdoors. We offer you helpful tips on which ERCO lighting tools are best suited and what you should pay attention to when illuminating art in outdoor areas.

Exciting project examples

Lighting art in outdoor spaces perfectly: what you should know

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

Which luminaire is the right one?
Projectors and floodlights as well as ground-recessed luminaires are suitable for lighting art installed in outdoor spaces. Floodlights and projectors can be flexibly positioned on walls or masts, but also on the ground using a ground stake. The ground stake allows the luminaire to be repositioned quickly and easily. Ground-recessed luminaires on the other hand are fixed but inconspicuously integrated into the ground. They can be walked over by visitors, and vehicles can also roll over them if they are fitted with appropriate mounting enclosures. They can however become covered with leaves or snow according to the season. Growing tree roots should also be considered when designing with ground-recessed luminaires.

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

Select the correct light distribution for the exhibit
ERCO lighting tools offer up to seven different light distributions with state of the art LED technology—for all sizes of exhibits and methods of lighting. Narrow distributions such as narrow spot (approx. 8°) and spot (approx. 15°) are ideal for accentuating. For smaller exhibits or at large lighting distances, narrow spot distribution (approx. 8°) is optimal. Wide distributions such as flood (approx. 30°), wide flood (approx. 50°) and extra wide flood (approx. 90°) are used for large-area lighting. This also allows larger artworks to be highlighted even at short lighting distances. Oval beam angles such as oval flood (approx. 20° x 60°) are excellent for lighting elongated sculptures and lettering.

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

How brightly should works of art be illuminated in outdoor spaces?
Accent lighting outside creates appealing points of interest. The contrast in brightness to the surroundings emphasizes the innate presence of the exhibits. A ratio of 1:5 to 1:10 is recommended as a contrast between the surroundings and the exhibit. If therefore the museum facade has an illuminance of 50lx, the exhibit in the foreground should have accent lighting of around 250lx. If the surroundings have a low illuminance of 5lx, 50lx on a sculpture for example is sufficient as a focal point. Of course, stronger or weaker brightness contrasts are also possible for a certain long-distance effect—you decide for yourself.

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

Select precisely alignable luminaires
Correct alignment of the light beam onto the exhibit is crucial for high visual comfort. For this reason, ERCO projectors and floodlights have pan-and-tilt adjustment. An adjustment aid on the outside of the housing makes it possible to identically align several projectors and floodlights. Ground-recessed luminaires can also be pan-and-tilt adjusted as directional spotlights, so that even inconspicuous luminaires installed in the ground can provide impressive and precise lighting. You can also help to avoid spill light in the atmosphere with optimally aligned light beams, thus supporting dark sky related concepts.

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

Correct use of light colors
The color of light has a significant influence on the perception of art outdoors. Warm light colors such as 3000K are suitable for warm-toned materials such as wood, whilst cooler light colors such as 4000K are more suitable for cooler surfaces such as exposed concrete.

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

Plan with weather resistant luminaires
Pay attention to the protection rating with outdoor luminaires. All ERCO projectors, floodlights and wallwashers have an IP65 protection rating, which means they are dustproof and protected against jets of water from all directions. The robust construction of the luminaires also withstands high wind loads in exposed mounting locations. The housing is made of corrosion-resistant cast aluminum with double powder coating and is therefore particularly weather-resistant. The no-rinse surface treatment ensures a reduced dirt deposit. Ground-recessed luminaires have an IP68 protection rating. This means the luminaires are also protected against the consequences of continuous submersion in water such as flooding.

Correctly illuminating different objects

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

Freestanding objects

Attract the attention of viewers to exhibits by effectively displaying outdoor art with light. Accent lighting brings art to life and makes it exciting with a high-contrast interplay of light and shadow. Whilst the surroundings fade into the background with accent lighting, they remain visible with floodlights and show the object in its context.

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

Objects on the wall

Art installed on museum facades or walls can be illuminated with projectors, floodlights and wallwashers or with ground-recessed luminaires as directional spotlights or wallwashers. Narrow distributions (8° to 30°) intensively accentuate the object whilst floodlights with wide distributions (50° to 90°) also emphasize the surroundings of the facade. Wallwashers illuminate the wall as a complete unit and, thanks to their uniform distribution of brightness, display the object on an equal footing with the facade.

Example lighting and arrangement of luminaires

Accent lighting impressively models objects such as sculptures in outdoor settings. The position and number of luminaires used influence the effect of light and shadow. When an object is illuminated frontally by a projector with spot distribution (approx. 15°), the modelling effect is weak. Two projectors from different directions create a balanced three-dimensional effect. An inclination angle (α) of approx. 30° is suitable for accent lighting with projectors. For illumination from three sides, an arrangement (β) with luminaires each offset by 120° is suitable.
Arrangement: α = 30°, ß = 120°


To illuminate an approx. 2m large sculpture installed on a pedestal from a distance of 8m with >50lx, a projector with 6W LED module and spot distribution (approx. 15°) is needed.

Identifying the right luminaire for any distance

A short lighting distance to the exhibit requires wide light distribution. With increasing distance, a narrower distribution is required to avoid spill light outside the exhibit and to enable dark sky related lighting concepts. To achieve 50lx on the exhibit, a 12W LED module at a distance of 3m and a 24W LED module at a distance of 20m are sufficient.

Technical features

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

Quality of light with precision

ERCO luminaires for outdoors project light using highly efficient Spherolit technology. This generates precisely defined beams of light of approximately 8° to 90° without spill light. Noteworthy is that high illuminance is achieved even at low wattages.

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

From small to large

You'll find the right size and suitable lumen package for every lighting task. For projectors, floodlights and wallwashers, selection ranges from 2W/210lm to 96W/13200lm: ideal for small to very large artworks outdoors.

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

Extremely durable

Due to excellent maintenance of luminous flux, ERCO luminaires feature high security of investment: L90/B10 with up to 50,000 operating hours. This results in low-maintenance operation over 25 years with illumination of 5 hours per day and without a significant reduction in luminous flux, and still with excellent photometric properties.

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces

High visual comfort

ERCO develops luminaires that provide excellent shielding of the light source due to their special housing design. The light source thus remains concealed, resulting in a particularly high level of visual comfort.

Correctly illuminating art in outdoor spaces


"ERCO individual" offers extensive options for the customizing of product ranges:

Suitable luminaires for outdoor art

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