Art Gallery Acoustics – A Case Study

Museum exhibits are being designed to engage patrons through an innovative collection of sound and presentation technologies. The demand for quality multimedia presentations and audio enhancements of visual exhibits is growing to meet these changing dynamics. However, since most museums retain the common architectural features of vaulted ceilings, large atriums, tile floors and masonry finishes, the exhibit areas rarely offer an environment for acceptable sound presentation.

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago recently reevaluated their own acoustical environment while designing a temporary exhibit for internationally acclaimed artist, Steve McQueen. London born McQueen is considered an important and influential artist within the audiovisual genre. The exhibit at Chicago’s Art Institute features fourteen of McQueen’s audiovisual installations and is the first American museum survey exhibition of the artist’s work.

Artist Steve McQueen

Identified Problem – Sound Control for an Audiovisual Exhibit

Regenstien Hall, the temporary home of most special exhibitions at the Art Institute, is an 18,000 square foot room of bare walls, high ceilings, and tile floors, an environment not conducive to high quality, clear acoustics. Working in this space and with the intricacies of an audiovisual exhibition introduced some unique concerns for the Art Institute. They wanted to provide sufficient acoustic control in the exhibition hall without compromising the aesthetic vision of the artist. It was decided that Acoustic Panels would help control both the exhibits audio and ambient sound from patrons.

Treatment Provided – 400 Custom Panels
The Art Institute ordered four hundred Custom Acoustic Panels ranging in size from 14”x 48”x4” to 66”x 88”x 4” to install in McQueen’s exhibit space. The panels were manufactured at ATS Acoustics with over 850 yards of custom ordered gray fabric. The custom panels were mounted throughout the exhibit space.

Installation shots for the exhibition Steve McQueen at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Results – Ideal Sound Presentation

Steve McQueen’s audiovisual exhibit opened to a public reception in mid-October and will remain open until January 6th, 2013.

The Art Institute team is extremely pleased with our ATS Acoustic Custom Panels. Larry Smallwood of the Art Institute of Chicago congratulated ATS on a, “job well done” and said that, “the Art Institute loved the look of the panels and appreciated the acoustical properties.” Some of these custom acoustic panels will be traveling to Switzerland with McQueen to be used in his future audiovisual exhibit.

Installation shots for the exhibition Steve McQueen at the Art Institute of Chicago.