Audio and lighting can be used to great effect when it comes to setting the mood in art-gallery spaces. With that in mind, finding the right audio and lighting systems was a top priority for The Ranch, Montauk NY’s newest high-profile art-exhibition space. Purchased in 2020, the current owner of The Ranch, art curator Max Levai, purchased the 24.7-acre property with the intention of converting it into a unique art-exhibition space. The result is a destination worthy of the Hamptons and the area’s reputation as a gathering place for America’s pop-culture icons. Max’s vision for The Ranch was to be a truly modern art-exhibition space that will draw on today’s technology to enhance the audience’s appreciation of the art on display. To that end, Levai enlisted the services of K-array and New York-based integrator Global Audio Systems to design and install sophisticated audio and lighting for The Ranch’s 2,500-square-foot gallery space, which is known as the West Barn. The system design also included a portable public-address (PA) system that can be flexibly deployed for additional sound reinforcement.
Max Levai and his architect Greg Tietjen wanted a lighting system that would be evocative of Montauk’s natural light and a sound system that would enhance the gallery experience, without being visually or sonically obtrusive. It was clear the solution had to be dynamic to adapt to the changing demands of exhibitions and events throughout the seasons while enhancing the colors of the artwork combined with a sound solution that created an immersive feeling for guests. The only natural light available was from the skylight in the middle of the main room which meant the quality of light in the corridors had to be of the highest quality available with a precise color temperature that would work with the various art on show without a strong glare. Max wanted a variety of spots and linear lights highlighting certain objects and filling the room with background light to give him as many options as possible.
Having assessed the restrictions of the six meter high ceiling which often proves troubling for acoustic engineers combined with a lighting design that would become a feature of the space, K-array USA along with Global Audio Systems decided they would need to treat the corridors and hallways as separate sound solutions due to the contrasting dimensions and sound level requirements. "The main gallery space with its wood cladded walls and ceilings offered us the opportunity to fill the space not only with downlight, but also the option to light the space through the use of indirect uplighting. Adding discreet speakers into the same unobtrusive RAIL system, enabled us to offer a truly immersive experience”
Rusty Waite - President of K-array USA
The solution was a K-array KSCAPE RAIL system, which combines audio and lighting into one visually low-profile package. Each individual RAIL fixture measures 1.2 meters in length and is equipped with LED lighting; most, but not all, of the RAILs installed at The Ranch are also equipped with speakers for sound reinforcement. In the main gallery of the West Barn, 30 RAIL fixtures are hung pendant-style from the ceiling. Rusty Waite, President of K-array USA said “With the vaulted ceiling having a max height of 18 feet, pendant hanging of the whole RAIL system with minimal aviation cable was very important. We wanted to ensure that the whole structure felt like it was floating in space and not blocking any of the possible wall space. The tracks are very slim and, therefore, very pleasing to the eye, even in pendant style.”
24 of the 30 RAIL are equipped with sound reinforcement; those are arranged in two parallel rows of 12 that run along the long sides of the room to create a full stereo system. Two K-array Kommander-KA24 amplifiers power the RAIL system’s audio components. They offer digital signal processing (DSP) and four channels of distributed audio each. One amplifier channel can handle 12 of the RAILs in sync with each other. The approach to the lighting was trifold due to the uplighting configuration available on RAIL. As the barn structure has vaulted ceilings, uplighting offers enough light on its own, as it reflects off the white wooden panels to create a glow above. For the wall, an asymmetric configuration was chosen to enhance any artwork while 4 spot light tracks were positioned on each side of the lighting structure to light the middle areas in any position with an easy turn of the spot itself. Each 1.2-meter section of RAIL actually has 360 high-quality Nichia LEDs mounted directly on a PCB (printed circuit board) that provide a CRI (color rendering index) greater than 95, which is ideal for art, in particular. And, thanks to the customization of the RAIL, glare control is made easy using the asymmetric linear (lighting option) at the right height.
For the corridors, the audio and lighting had to be hidden carefully in order to provide more space for the art. Each of those corridors are equipped with 12 RAIL fixtures that are flush mounted into the ceiling with a waveguide for the audio to pass through effortlessly. They provide a mix of symmetrical downlight and electric spots, all with DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) control for individual control. The Ranch offers a fine example of how the right background music (BGM) and lighting composition can not only complement the artwork on display but also help to immerse the audience more deeply in the feeling that the art seeks to create.
“As soon as the lights were turned on for the first time, Max was convinced that he had made the right choice. The fact that you can hear the sound but have no idea where it is coming from gives Max and his team a chance to create a really unique experience.”
Rusty Waite - President of K-array USA
“The natural light in Montauk was our inspiration for the lighting system – it is really what makes this area so special and what we aspired to capture but, in a traditional barn, the goal was to achieve a solution that was versatile and could be tailored to the needs of the wide variety of artwork we will exhibit. K-array provided us with extreme latitude in adjusting the lights for the changing demands of the lighting conditions each unique body of work requires.” Furthermore “The lighting is, of course, critical in allowing a work of art to shine and exemplify the small surface details that might be hard to see. One thing I was struck by was the way that the lights brought out elements of paintings I'm extremely familiar with but had not seen under other conditions.”
Max Levai - Owner of The Ranch
The influential AV magazine Sound & Communications recently featured and talked about The Ranch. "Enhancing Art Appreciation" by Anthony Vargas on page 34 - 37 talks about the project. Click here to read