Art galleries are often located in old buildings that are rarely as high tech as they should be in terms of environmental control. They may not necessarily have been originally built as art venues. Problems of micro temperatures and different air flows can mean there may be different hot and cold spots within. A comfortable atmosphere for visitors can never be guaranteed and artworks could be damaged.
If art galleries cannot guarantee controlled conditions, they may not be able to borrow important works from other galleries and thus impact their visitor numbers. According to The Guardian website, in the last few years there has been increased pressure on galleries world-wide to lend great artworks they would not have considered lending before and so they look for reassurance.
Temperature and relative humidity rules
International regulations about maintaining the right temperature and relative humidity levels inside a gallery were laid down in the middle of the last century, driven by fears that artworks would be damaged if their surroundings changed.
As it stands, unless a gallery or museum can guarantee a climate of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) and 50 per cent relative humidity, it is not seen as suitable to borrow great art.
The rules were established in London after artworks were moved to avoid the aerial bombardments of the first and second world wars.
The advantages of hiring air conditioning
Environmental control at galleries rarely needs full ‘built-in’ air conditioning. Important exhibits require expertly managed conditions (the adequate control of temperature, relative humidity, and pollutants).
This is best taken care of by an experienced air conditioning rental specialist who will know which mobile air conditioning, dehumidifier and chiller units are most appropriate for each different gallery area.
According to the research ‘Environment Control in Historic Galleries and Museums’ by O’Sullivan and Oreszcyn, maintaining required environmental control at a gallery by hiring necessary equipment is a far more cost-effective option for galleries than investing in fixed air-conditioning. Build-in air conditioning can be extremely expensive, and then prove to be insufficient when it comes to meeting a gallery’s exact needs. Hiring air conditioning is the ideal solution; as it can address specific problems on site and be removed when the UK temperature changes and is not needed.
The benefits of hiring air conditioning are numerous, in fact:
- As well as there being no capital expenditure involved, galleries can receive the newest air conditioning models available (whereas if they buy a fixed system it could date or not be the most efficient)
- Experienced air conditioning unit hire personnel will know exactly which units will best serve each gallery area
- Rented units are portable and therefore can be moved around a gallery as required
- There are no long-term storage issues; units can simply be hired as and when needed, with the rental specialist collecting and returning them to their depot when they have served their purpose
Planning ahead is the key
Most prestigious art galleries know their exhibiting calendar for the year well in-advance and so have exact dates for when hired air conditioning will be required. The air conditioning specialist can then begin to comprehensively plan the provision of equipment, making a site survey an essential part of the planning process. A site survey examines the specific requirements for a venue during delivery, installation and operation of equipment; avoiding potential damage to both the venue and exhibits being the most important factor.
All this means peace of mind for gallery owners, some of whom may temporarily have in their care some of the greatest artworks ever created – a weighty responsibility indeed.