Tate Britain’s Rex Whistler restaurant welcomes new Genelec installation

The Tate Britain, home of British art from 1500 up to the present day and an historic building in its own right, also houses one of London’s quirkiest dining venues, the award-winning Rex Whistler Restaurant.

Once described as “the most amusing room in Europe” thanks to its specially commissioned mural that covers every square inch of the restaurant’s four walls, the restaurant is also renowned for its exceptional wine list. The venue recently invested in an installation of twelve Genelec 4020C monitors supplied and installed by HHB Communications, along with two RØDE Performer Link microphone systems and a bespoke control system.

According to HHB Communications CTO, John “JJ” Johnson, the brief itself was quite straightforward – the restaurant required a high quality, easy-to-use public address system for music and speech reinforcement specifically for their special events program and private hires.

The difficulty was in working around the priceless 1927 Rex Whistler mural combined with the extremely tight timeframe. “Specifying the equipment was the easy bit,” recalled JJ. “When it comes to premium quality monitoring and sound reinforcement, Genelec is an obvious choice. We went for their dedicated 4000 Series installation speakers - specifically the 4020C - as their active design means that no external amplification is required, sound quality is matchless, and they are small enough to remain discreet whilst providing adequate, crystalline room coverage. The difficult bit was managing the physical installation in such a delicate environment. In fact, I can safely say that this is one of the most unique and delicate installations in HHB’s history.”

The project was carefully planned and installed over the course of an extremely tight 3-day timeframe with close input from the Tate’s conservation team regarding the protection of the artwork. “It was incredibly complicated as we had to work within the constraints of the Tate’s artwork conservation team as well as other contractors including electricians, maintenance, fire alarm engineers etc.,” recounted JJ. “It was anything but straightforward because the protection of the mural was paramount. We also had to ensure that the visual impact of the installation was kept to a strict minimum so as not to obscure or detract from the mural in any way. It was very challenging, but satisfying work.”

Once completed, JJ and HHB’s senior support engineer, Mike Rigby who assisted throughout the installation, thoroughly tested the monitors, adjusted the processing, trained staff on the system and offered full support throughout the entire process.

Catering general manager for Tate Britain, Matthew Randall commented, “Working with the team at HHB was a pleasure throughout the process; the team’s professionalism and sensitivity to this project in an historically important space was impeccable. We are delighted with the final result which will add real polish to the space and enhance our special events offering. We look forward to continuing the strong relationship we have with the team at HHB.”

JJ agreed: “The Genelec 4020C installation speaker and associated mounting hardware accessories were specifically designed with challenging commercial installations in mind, although I’m not sure Genelec had envisaged anything quite like the Rex Whistler! Nevertheless, combined with an unbeatable reputation for outstanding sonic delivery, the 4020C was the perfect choice for this space. We’re delighted with the outcome, as are Tate Britain.”

THE KIT

• 12 x 4020C Two-way active loudspeaker

• 12 X 8000-442B Adjustable ceiling mount