Nick Cave’s Soundsuit was made for 2014 exhibition

By | December 28, 2015


Artist Nick Cave discusses his work at an opening reception for <em>Currents 109: Nick Cave.</em>

Artist Nick Cave discusses his work at an opening reception for Currents 109: Nick Cave.

Nick Cave’s wearable sculptures captivated Museum visitors the 2014 exhibition Currents 109: Nick Cave. After the exhibition closed, the Museum acquired one of the Missouri-born artist’s Soundsuits.

The wearable sculptures are composed of fibers as varied as raffia, hair, yarn, and twigs, and items such as buttons, sequins, and an array of found objects that Cave finds in flea markets and thrift stores. The Museum’s Soundsuit is made of an assortment of recycled materials, with crocheted pot-holders, an array of vintage toys, and globe coin banks being most noticeable. Because the object has the dual function of being displayed as a sculpture in the galleries and being worn in performances, the rattling and ringing of the tin noisemakers in movement are essential to the idea of the piece.


Nick Cave, American, born 1959; Soundsuit, mixed media including vintage toys, noisemakers, metal, hot pads, fabric, and mannequin; 110 x 60 x 40 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Funds given by Gary C. Werths and Richard Frimel 3:2015a-d

In a 2012 interview with Richard Lacayo in Time Style & Design, Cave spoke of the experience of hearing the first Soundsuit in movement, “I started to think about the role of protest,” he recalls. “In order to be heard, you’ve got to speak louder. I thought about the body as an alarm system that could go off any second.”

This particular Soundsuit is unique because the artist worked on it in St. Louis in preparation for the Currents exhibition. The structure attached to the back of this Soundsuit—a figure made of a child’s clothes-hanger with a head and two sweaters sewn together at the bottom seam—was added to the Soundsuit after it arrived in St. Louis. According to Cave this figure hanging loosely from the back of the Soundsuit represents a “spirit” or “shadow” or a “second skin”.