Studio Visit: Artist Nick Cave Is Unveiling an Enormous Election Day Banner and Ending His Days With Gospel Music

We caught up with the artist about what's on his mind.

Nick Cave. Photo by Sandro.
Nick Cave. Photo by Sandro.

Election Day in the US is upon us—and Nick Cave is doing his best to point out the lies and hypocrisy of the current administration.

Today, at dealer Jack Shainman’s Upstate New York offshoot, the School, Cave is unveiling a large-scale, 25-foot banner across the building’s facade declaring “Truth Be Told.”

The work, according to the gallery, is “a pointed antidote to a presidency known for propaganda that disguises truth and history to present racist and nativist ideology as patriotism.” (The gallery says the town in which the School is based, Kinderhook, has disallowed the work from being shown, but that it went ahead with the presentation anyway.)

Ahead of the work’s unveiling, we caught up with Cave about what else he’s been up to in his studio.

What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?

My stack of ideas. I keep an alternative sketchbook of sorts next to me at all times to be sure I capture all valuable thoughts for when they are pertinent.

What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?

I am refining an execution for my new Soundsuit series called Soundsuit 8.46. I have some very new plans for an external layer of content that is close to completion.

What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?

Quiet is best for me to connect the work to myself. Sometimes I begin the day with classical music and other times I end an evening of work with some gospel house.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?

When emotion can be felt—an authentic-ness vs. a synthetic-ness. With our new Truth Be Told work at the School, all the surface has been stripped out and all you are left with is the purpose. Time to step up, and into the truth. There is no time or space left for anything [else]. Today’s administration seems to want us all to walk in a world that is grounded in an alternate or non-existent reality and what we need are firmly planted convictions based on science and morality and empathy for all.

Nick Cave's studio. Photo: Michelle Litvin Studio.

Nick Cave’s studio. Photo: Michelle Litvin Studio.

What snack food could your studio not function without?

I’m not saying.

Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow right now?

I pay more attention to artists outside the visual art space. Performing artists, like musicians and drag and dance, all inspire me in various ways. I think collaborations are where real excitement is.

When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?

I just ride it out. It is ok to be stuck. Sometimes days, sometimes weeks, it’s just important to know it is just a phase.

What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?

I think the most impactful series of expressions on me have been those connected to the protests ignited after George Floyd’s death. They seemed to come from all types of people and from every corner of the country. They were made out of a necessity and with a purpose and a plan. Some were beautiful and installed as permanent reminders, others were just done for the day. But they all were important and as a collection of work [were] extremely impactful.

Picture your mood right now, what would it look like?

It’s blue and yellow horizontal stripes…. What does that mean to you?


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