This week I’m going to inaugurate a new series of posts dedicated to museum acquisitions: a selection of works of Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art, across different cultures, recently entered into public collections.
I want to start with Soundsuit 8:46, a contemporary sculpture by American artist Nick Cave (b. 1959, Fulton, MO; lives and works in Chicago, IL) from his best-known Soundsuits series.
The work was acquired in April by LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art): the museum has announced a total of ten new acquisitions for its art departments, thanks to the support of the Collectors Committee, which raised over $2 million during the 37th Collectors Committee Fundraiser Weekend 2023.
Soundsuit 8:46 will be included in LACMA’s upcoming exhibition Imagining Black Diasporas: 21st Century Art and Poetics.
I had the chance to see Nick Cave’s impressive works in 2022 at Hayward Gallery in London during “In the Black Fantastic”, an exhibition curated by Ekow Eshun.
Soundsuit 8:46, 2021
248 x 81 x 55 cm (without pedestal), mixed media including vintage textile and flowers, sequined appliqués, metal and mannequin
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of the 2023 Collectors Committee with additional funds provided by The Buddy Taub Foundation, © Nick Cave, photo courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Nick Cave started conceiving his Soundsuits as wearable sculptures and metaphorical protective armours for Black people after Rodney King beating by five officers of Los Angeles Police Department in 1991.
After George Floyd was murdered in 2020, he decided to honour his memory and life in Soundsuit 8:46.
As explained by Dhyandra Lawson, LACMA's Andy Song Assistant Curator for Contemporary Art: “He titled the work after the media’s initial, inaccurate reporting of the length of time officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, which camera footage later confirmed to be 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Cave paid tribute to Floyd’s life with a gorgeous suit covered in flowers. Soundsuit 8:46 is the first of Cave’s work at LACMA and in any museum in Los Angeles.
Cave’s Soundsuits are both sculptures and vessels for performance, intended to be worn. The sound referenced in the series title signifies the noise the suits make when performers wear them, or the sound they suggest to viewers in quiet galleries. Cave’s elaborate suits obscure class, gender, and race, making bodies impossible to objectify.
The artist attributes his interest in sewing and building to his grandparents, who were furniture and quilt makers in Fulton, Missouri. As one of seven boys, Cave learned to transform hand-me-downs early. He repurposes twigs, buttons, toys, and fabrics he collects from his neighborhood, flea markets, and yard sales into fantastical works, bringing domestic materials into public life.”
The artist is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery. He teaches Fashion, Body and Garment at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Nick Cave, Soundsuit 8:46 (detail), 2021, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of the 2023 Collectors Committee with additional funds provided by The Buddy Taub Foundation, © Nick Cave, photo courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York