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Museum lights

Here are two facts about me: I like modern art, and I suffer from migraines. The day before yesterday, I visited the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, where there’s a huge new wing for modern art built underneath the garden, two stories below. The ceiling is huge, and there are glassy domes in it which you can see from the outside, too. At first you think that they are used to let in some daylight, but once inside, you realise that they are some sort of neon lamps. And the light they emit is utterly weird.

On Saturday, besides visiting the museum, I was also suffering from a migraine. If it’s a slight attack, all I feel is a heightened sensitivity to light and sounds, combined with just a touch of feeling sick, and on such days I don’t even bother taking a paracetamol. Often the migraine disappears in the course of the day, and it doesn’t impede me much. Not so on Saturday. When I had entered the new museum wing, I felt sick and more than a bit disoriented. I quickly left the large central room and went to one or two of the smallish side rooms, where the lights’ effects were not quite as strong, but it was no use: I had to leave or I fear I would have fainted. Fortunately there is a nice little café on ground level (with natural light) where I was able to wait for the other members of my group.

This is the first time I actually had to leave a museum because of weird light effects, but with modern art, I tend to stay clear from most installations, especially those that use light effects. I now think this may well have to do with the fact that I unconsciously feel they may trigger or worsen a migraine.

Fellow migraine sufferers, have you felt effects like this? Is there lighting that you avoid as much as you can? Or am I over-interpreting a singular event?

– Rike Horstmann


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07/30/2012 9:54 am

I’ve had really bad headaches before but not due to lights but I could see where weird effects might cause them. And actually I had to go to the ER for a super horrible headache one time and asked the staff to turn off the lights in the treating area, which they did thank goodness. Fortunately whatever they gave me worked really fast (20 mins.).