New in 2015: Soundsuit by Nick Cave

By | December 28, 2015

For the rest of the year, we’re highlighting amazing works of art that became part of the SLAM collection in 2015. We’ll be posting a new acquisition daily through the end of the year. You can read each installment here

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 last year at the artist’s solo exhibition, Currents 109: Nick Cave. This year, we are excited to welcome on of the Missouri-born artist’s Soundsuits into the permanent collection.


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

Cave is best known for his imaginative and theatrical Soundsuits—wearable sculptures 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 new 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.

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”.

The piece eventually will be on view in Gallery 249, the gallery devoted to figuration and the body in contemporary art.