Kommentar: Grabräuber und PyramidenOf tomb raiders and desecrated pyramids

24. Jul 2013

The Louvre in Paris cooperates with Toshiba

A comment by Joachim Ritter

Ask someone to name a museum that is known in all corners of the earth and they are bound to come up with the Louvre in Paris. This is where you can gaze in wonder at Mona Lisa’s never-ending smile, and this is where you will find one of mankind’s most significant symbols of durability and sustainability: the Pyramid – built in this case of modern-day materials such as steel and glass and designed by Ieoh Ming Pei. Contrary to ancient Egyptians, Pei must have thought that as long as it is possible to see inside the Louvre Pyramid, there would be no reason to mess with it. The Egyptians regarded the pyramid as a symbol of the unbreakable, the indestructible, which is why they chose to bury their Pharaohs deep inside them. But nothing lasts forever and is basically only a question of time. Sometimes it takes thousands of years until some tomb raider or villain comes along to retrieve what they can of the deathly hallows and desacralise them for a social cause. And thus, too, are the days of the current tungsten halogen and metal halide lamps in the Louvre numbered. Not for reasons of avarice, I hasten to add, but in order to save energy. In the last few weeks a number of websites have published the report about the ‘grand remplacement’ of the lighting in the Louvre in the French capital. The report was in fact a press release which, given the international significance of the museum, became top news – and treated with far more reverence than many of the other communications about energy saving that regularly hit the headlines.

But something held me back from swallowing the information contain in the press report. I needed some time to realise what this piece of news was actually relating. Questions came to mind that I didn’t have any answers for. Do the new light sources and the existing luminaires fit together? When the lamps are replaced, does that mean the fixtures need replacing too? Young designers in the industry will not immediately grasp the historical relevance of this news, and will certainly not experience that – dare I say – weird stomach muscle tightening feeling that accompanies a certain awareness of what is going on. Let me just say Erco Lichtbericht No. 32, published in April 1989 and No. 77, published in 2005… But I’ll come back to that later. But before we go any further, here is the original (not edited) press release from lamp manufacturer Toshiba.

“In France, on Tuesday, June 4th, a lighting ceremony was held in the Musée du Louvre’s Napoleon Hall to celebrate the completion of the Toshiba LED lighting renovation for the displays of the Mona Lisa and Red Room. The ceremony was attended by Toshiba’s Corporate Senior Executive Vice President, Mr. Hidejiro Shimomitsu, and Louvre Museum General Manager, Mr Hervé Barbaret, as well as 480 guests, including valued European customers. The Musée du Louvre and Toshiba have maintained a partnership agreement since June 2010. Toshiba has so far renovated the lighting of the Pyramid, the Pyramidions and the Pavillon Colbert (December 2011) and the Cour Napoleon (May 2012) – a testimony of the Louvre’s investment in the environment. The renovations have significantly cut power consumption, and a 73 per cent cut in power consumed by exterior lighting. The lighting renovation of the Mona Lisa and displays in the Red Room is the first time Toshiba LEDs have been used for interior lighting in the museum, and has allowed for the installation of a new generation of lighting products. The lamps and lighting fixtures developed by Toshiba have improved colour rendering of the paintings, total suppressed UV and IR radiation, and reduced electricity consumption for the Red Room and the Mona Lisa. A unique, highly innovative lamp was installed in front of Mona Lisa and concealed in the shelf next to the painting. This lamp uses 34 LEDs and allows for the compensation of colour shift due to the protective glazing and ambient lighting. The lamp includes various optical systems to frame the painting and to maintain very high lighting uniformity across the masterpiece. An innovative control system, that allows the Musée du Louvre to adjust the spectrum of the lamp as precisely as possible, was developed with the highest possible fidelity to colours. The Louvre palace remains in constant evolution over the years, building upon its constitution for many centuries now. Today still, the creation of this new lamp specifically for the Mona Lisa is the result of an iterative collaboration between great specialists. In 2005, a new, ultramodern spotlight was created for the presentation of the Mona Lisa at the opening of the Salle des Etats. Today, thanks to the expertise of Toshiba and the contribution of internationally renowned specialists towards an ultra-sophisticated technology, a new spot prototype, at the forefront of lighting development, is once again presented. Toshiba has undertaken new lighting projects on a global scale since April 2010 as part of its approach to create a new “akari (lighting) culture” in harmony with people and the environment. In addition to enhancing its technical capabilities gained through its involvement in this project Toshiba, as one of the world’s leading eco-conscious companies, will continue to contribute to global culture and reduction of environmental burdens. The next stage of the partnership will be to use Toshiba LED lighting in the Cour Carrée (a square courtyard) by the end of 2013 and in the Napoleon Hall in the first half of 2014 (scheduled). A dedicated website has been created showcasing Toshiba’s involvement in the Musée du Louvre’s lighting renovation project. The site explains each of the phases of this project.”

www.toshiba.co.jp/lighting/about/louvre/index.htm

End of the press release.

Sounds good – highly innovative and of course extremely generous of Toshiba. Big thank you due there, then.

But in spite of the huge generosity that has been shown here, there should still be room to ask a few questions. With all the talk about progress and reducing energy consumption, there is one term that has been entirely forgotten: Lighting Design, let alone Lighting Designer. Neither of those terms gets a mention throughout the entire press release. Now, some people may think that lighting paintings is all about achieving an even, uniform wash of the painted surface, and that it can’t be that difficult to get right. The more uniform, the better, so to speak. But this is where Toshiba, and the Louvre for that matter, couldn’t be more wrong. A modern approach would mean involving a careful examination of the pigments used by the artist and how those substances react to the different parts of the spectrum. In Italy, they have progressed a little further in this regard. Erco is also not quite on the right track (no pun intended) here, either. Their claim to uniform lighting being the paradigm solution is unfortunately also out of date. Speaking of Erco: after the Pei project at the Louvre in the 1980’s, the Louvre was quite clearly an Erco project. And when the lighting was renewed in 2005 Erco was still the first port of call – for the art pieces as well as for the Pyramid. And anyone who has seen the Louvre live immediately associates the quality of the lighting with that company. But that is now history. For whether they have only replaced the light sources or also installed different luminaires – Erco or not Erco – the museum will for sure consume less energy, but will likely forfeit much of the lighting quality. Those who are able to compare the LEDs and the conventional lighting technology and actually feel the difference will doubtless ask whether Erco would like to be associated with this new quality of lighting in future and whether the Louvre will get another mention in the Lichtbericht. I doubt it. The art world has always been an exception when it comes to prioritising costs and quality. Whether that will remain so, may well become a topic for debate in the coming years … and probably also the reason why the Pyramid at the Louvre will not remain unscathed when the next round of conquerors turn up on its doorstep.

—-

Our PLD magazine app (iPad App Store) contains a media-enhanced version.

The Louvre in Paris cooperates with Toshiba

A comment by Joachim Ritter

Ask someone to name a museum that is known in all corners of the earth and they are bound to come up with the Louvre in Paris. This is where you can gaze in wonder at Mona Lisa’s never-ending smile, and this is where you will find one of mankind’s most significant symbols of durability and sustainability: the Pyramid – built in this case of modern-day materials such as steel and glass and designed by Ieoh Ming Pei. Contrary to ancient Egyptians, Pei must have thought that as long as it is possible to see inside the Louvre Pyramid, there would be no reason to mess with it. The Egyptians regarded the pyramid as a symbol of the unbreakable, the indestructible, which is why they chose to bury their Pharaohs deep inside them. But nothing lasts forever and is basically only a question of time. Sometimes it takes thousands of years until some tomb raider or villain comes along to retrieve what they can of the deathly hallows and desacralise them for a social cause. And thus, too, are the days of the current tungsten halogen and metal halide lamps in the Louvre numbered. Not for reasons of avarice, I hasten to add, but in order to save energy. In the last few weeks a number of websites have published the report about the ‘grand remplacement’ of the lighting in the Louvre in the French capital. The report was in fact a press release which, given the international significance of the museum, became top news – and treated with far more reverence than many of the other communications about energy saving that regularly hit the headlines.

But something held me back from swallowing the information contain in the press report. I needed some time to realise what this piece of news was actually relating. Questions came to mind that I didn’t have any answers for. Do the new light sources and the existing luminaires fit together? When the lamps are replaced, does that mean the fixtures need replacing too? Young designers in the industry will not immediately grasp the historical relevance of this news, and will certainly not experience that – dare I say – weird stomach muscle tightening feeling that accompanies a certain awareness of what is going on. Let me just say Erco Lichtbericht No. 32, published in April 1989 and No. 77, published in 2005… But I’ll come back to that later. But before we go any further, here is the original (not edited) press release from lamp manufacturer Toshiba.

“In France, on Tuesday, June 4th, a lighting ceremony was held in the Musée du Louvre’s Napoleon Hall to celebrate the completion of the Toshiba LED lighting renovation for the displays of the Mona Lisa and Red Room. The ceremony was attended by Toshiba’s Corporate Senior Executive Vice President, Mr. Hidejiro Shimomitsu, and Louvre Museum General Manager, Mr Hervé Barbaret, as well as 480 guests, including valued European customers. The Musée du Louvre and Toshiba have maintained a partnership agreement since June 2010. Toshiba has so far renovated the lighting of the Pyramid, the Pyramidions and the Pavillon Colbert (December 2011) and the Cour Napoleon (May 2012) – a testimony of the Louvre’s investment in the environment. The renovations have significantly cut power consumption, and a 73 per cent cut in power consumed by exterior lighting. The lighting renovation of the Mona Lisa and displays in the Red Room is the first time Toshiba LEDs have been used for interior lighting in the museum, and has allowed for the installation of a new generation of lighting products. The lamps and lighting fixtures developed by Toshiba have improved colour rendering of the paintings, total suppressed UV and IR radiation, and reduced electricity consumption for the Red Room and the Mona Lisa. A unique, highly innovative lamp was installed in front of Mona Lisa and concealed in the shelf next to the painting. This lamp uses 34 LEDs and allows for the compensation of colour shift due to the protective glazing and ambient lighting. The lamp includes various optical systems to frame the painting and to maintain very high lighting uniformity across the masterpiece. An innovative control system, that allows the Musée du Louvre to adjust the spectrum of the lamp as precisely as possible, was developed with the highest possible fidelity to colours. The Louvre palace remains in constant evolution over the years, building upon its constitution for many centuries now. Today still, the creation of this new lamp specifically for the Mona Lisa is the result of an iterative collaboration between great specialists. In 2005, a new, ultramodern spotlight was created for the presentation of the Mona Lisa at the opening of the Salle des Etats. Today, thanks to the expertise of Toshiba and the contribution of internationally renowned specialists towards an ultra-sophisticated technology, a new spot prototype, at the forefront of lighting development, is once again presented. Toshiba has undertaken new lighting projects on a global scale since April 2010 as part of its approach to create a new “akari (lighting) culture” in harmony with people and the environment. In addition to enhancing its technical capabilities gained through its involvement in this project Toshiba, as one of the world’s leading eco-conscious companies, will continue to contribute to global culture and reduction of environmental burdens. The next stage of the partnership will be to use Toshiba LED lighting in the Cour Carrée (a square courtyard) by the end of 2013 and in the Napoleon Hall in the first half of 2014 (scheduled). A dedicated website has been created showcasing Toshiba’s involvement in the Musée du Louvre’s lighting renovation project. The site explains each of the phases of this project.”

www.toshiba.co.jp/lighting/about/louvre/index.htm

End of the press release.

Sounds good – highly innovative and of course extremely generous of Toshiba. Big thank you due there, then.

But in spite of the huge generosity that has been shown here, there should still be room to ask a few questions. With all the talk about progress and reducing energy consumption, there is one term that has been entirely forgotten: Lighting Design, let alone Lighting Designer. Neither of those terms gets a mention throughout the entire press release. Now, some people may think that lighting paintings is all about achieving an even, uniform wash of the painted surface, and that it can’t be that difficult to get right. The more uniform, the better, so to speak. But this is where Toshiba, and the Louvre for that matter, couldn’t be more wrong. A modern approach would mean involving a careful examination of the pigments used by the artist and how those substances react to the different parts of the spectrum. In Italy, they have progressed a little further in this regard. Erco is also not quite on the right track (no pun intended) here, either. Their claim to uniform lighting being the paradigm solution is unfortunately also out of date. Speaking of Erco: after the Pei project at the Louvre in the 1980’s, the Louvre was quite clearly an Erco project. And when the lighting was renewed in 2005 Erco was still the first port of call – for the art pieces as well as for the Pyramid. And anyone who has seen the Louvre live immediately associates the quality of the lighting with that company. But that is now history. For whether they have only replaced the light sources or also installed different luminaires – Erco or not Erco – the museum will for sure consume less energy, but will likely forfeit much of the lighting quality. Those who are able to compare the LEDs and the conventional lighting technology and actually feel the difference will doubtless ask whether Erco would like to be associated with this new quality of lighting in future and whether the Louvre will get another mention in the Lichtbericht. I doubt it. The art world has always been an exception when it comes to prioritising costs and quality. Whether that will remain so, may well become a topic for debate in the coming years … and probably also the reason why the Pyramid at the Louvre will not remain unscathed when the next round of conquerors turn up on its doorstep.

—-

Our PLD magazine app (iPad App Store) contains a media-enhanced version.

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