In Ran Ortner’s studio in DUMBO, Brooklyn, a pair of new Linn speakers in a custom slate-black finish frame a huge oil canvas. Music and Art are paired in perfect harmony. Waves meet Waves.
It was April 2023, and I was in New York with my colleague Joe Rodger for the launch of Linn’s all-new flagship 360 loudspeakers at Innovative Audio in Manhattan. As it happened, Ran was to take delivery of his 360s in the same week, giving us the perfect opportunity to find out why this world-renowned artist was pairing Linn speakers with his art.
Ran Ortner shot to prominence when, by winning the prestigious ArtPrize in 2009 (and with it, a grand prize of $250,000), he left his long struggle to survive as an artist behind. His dynamic, multi-layer oil paintings of the ocean or - more precisely - the waves, take years to produce. In the flesh, they are utterly breathtaking.
Even in his youth, Ran was passionate about music, hi-fi, and Linn. As well as owning a Sondek LP12 as a young man, he worked for a period in Linn’s retail concession onboard the luxurious QE2 ocean liner. He has owned a Linn system ever since.
The difference now was that, for the first time, with his brand-new flagship Linn 360 system, Ran intended to integrate sound with his artwork. In his studio, it allows Ran to listen to music while painting: “The sign that this is a great system is my ability to listen to music at low volumes, hear all the detail, yet not get distracted from my work.”
After a tour of the studio, my colleague Joe took precise measurements of the main gallery – 55 x 71 x 22ft – and deployed our Space Optimisation software to make the best sound possible. Joe has run a multitude of Linn events over the years, sometimes pairing music with food, or music with whisky, but never before music with art. How do you even do that?
Thankfully, as it turns out, it’s not that difficult, because you can play anything on these 360 loudspeakers, and it sounds the best you’ve ever heard it. I couldn’t resist the maritime allure of Farewell to Stromness, from Peter Maxwell Davies’s An Orkney Wedding. Leonard Cohen’s Never Mind drew us deep into the painting. Trentemøller turned the studio into an NYC basement rave.
In all, we spent over three hours in Ran’s studio; discussing the nature of art, music, life and humanity – and listening to his stunning new Linn flagship system featuring his custom-finished 360 speakers – the first such system to be owned by a member of the public.
We took the F-train into Manhattan, and ate at Eric Ripert’s Le Bernadin, where the aforementioned million-dollar-prize-winning Ran Ortner spans the entirety of the rear wall. “Eric, you gotta come to the studio and listen to these new speakers.”
“Will he come?” I asked as we left the restaurant.
“Oh yes, and others too.”
Linn 360 Loudspeaker: Find out more