This Horse Ranch in Montauk Is Now an Idyllic Art Destination

This Horse Ranch in Montauk Is Now an Idyllic Art Destination
Photo: Courtesy of The Ranch

The winding dirt road to The Ranch, a new indoor-outdoor exhibition space in Montauk, opens onto a sprawling, Thomas Cole-like view of the property; its 26 acres scattered with grazing horses and donkeys. If, at a glance, it doesn’t quite fit the mold of a fine-arts venue, that’s by design: to owner Max Levai, the former president of Marlborough Gallery, the place is a farm first. “I wanted to preserve as much as I could,” he tells Vogue, “because this land truly belongs to the people of Montauk.”

At The Ranch, a converted horse barn and its surrounding fields become a giant canvas, featuring the works of artists that Levai, now an independent dealer, still represents. In the barn, eight new works by Peter Halley currently take center stage; grand and luminous compositions inspired by Han Hoffman’s work with color and geometry. In an adjacent space, 30 drawings by the artist Susan Te Kahurangi King adorn the walls; the earliest, from 1958, were made when King was just seven years old. Outside, meanwhile, visitors are met with a series of sculptures by Frank Benson, Aaron Curry, and Virginia Overton.

Peter Halley, Wrong Turn, 2021. Acrylic, fluorescent acrylic, and Roll-A-Tex on 11 joined canvases, 80 x 66 inches.

Courtesy of The Ranch

“When I first arrived, I knew that I needed the perfect venue to show artwork in a new way,” Levai says. “The Ranch is the ideal space where my artists and I can manifest our ideas.” The surrounding area?certainly has long history of inspiring creatives: Adjacent to the Deep Hollow Ranch, the oldest working cattle ranch in America, Andy Warhol summered on his property, Eothen, only a mile away.?There, he would invite along a glamorous circle of friends including Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Lee Radziwell, Liza Minelli, John Lennon, and Rolling Stone’s Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. “Was I intimidated by its legacy? Yeah, of course,” Levai admits. “I was intimidated by its size, messing up its buildings—all of it. The idea of falling short is scary.”

Max Levai.Photo: Courtesy of The Ranch

Indeed, Levai’s move out east in August of 2020 not only marked a new beginning and lifestyle change, but also a massive learning curve; initially, the natural world seemed distant and daunting to him. “I used to joke that I would travel to Europe every 10 days, and now I’m sitting here and haven’t left New York state in months,” Levai says. “I’ve had to learn everything from, you know, how grass grows to the importance of tree placement.” But these days, he feels right at home; between its Kentucky-style barns, a landscape that “feels like bits of Colorado or Texas,” and even its proximity to the beach, The Ranch figures as a classic embodiment of pure Americana. “It’s a manifestation of Carl Fisher’s last ideas of Montauk,” Levai explains, referring to the entrepreneur’s dreams of turning the peninsula into a premiere summer escape in the 1920s, “and I want to pay homage to its history.”

Photo: Courtesy of The Ranch

On the day of The Ranch’s opening in late June, Hamptons locals, dressed in their summer whites, explored the grounds while listening to live music and staying refreshed with the star drink of the affair, Ruby Hibiscus Water. Artists Joanna Avillez, Cindy Sherman, and Jack Hanley could be seen mingling on the wide lawn while Levai, donning a plaid shirt and blue jeans, ran around with his dog, Monday, greeting guests. His bliss was contagious. “This place is where so many memories of relationships, friendships, and the community began,” he said. “With it, I hope to bring two worlds, ones that may not usually cross paths, together.”

To book a visit to The Ranch, visit here.?