Nick Cave’s hybrid creations are part Alexander McQueen, part Andy Warhol, and wholly bizarre, brash, and beautiful. He combines elements of sound, performance, color, and costume to create whimsical works that even the darkest soul would find hard to resist. Born in Missouri, Nick Cave showed an early talent for performance before moving to New York City to dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Followed by visual art studies in the Midwest, Cave’s genre-expanding work straddles both dance and visual art to explore the ways that African identity is subsumed into disparate cultural codes.
One of the premiere artists to be featured on Artspace.com, where six of his colorful prints are available in a variety of sizes, Cave is on the verge of becoming an art world celebrity with his September double solo show at Jack Shainman Gallery and Mary Boone Gallery in New York. Artspace blog editor Paul Laster recently caught up with the industrious artist at his Chicago studio to get his responses to 20 curious questions that reveal a lot.
Artspace: When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?
Nick Cave: When I was a kid. I’ve always made art, but what really triggered it was the first time I saw Michael Jackson on TV and I looked at my mother and said, ‘I’m going to be an artist.’ And I knew it was a visual artist and not a performer. How I was associating with Michael was through a visual sort of thing. That’s when it all happened.
A: What’s your idea of a dream home or holiday?
NC: A dream home is a space that functions as a sanctuary. It’s a place where I can escape. It’s authentic, but it’s simple and peaceful. Right now, a dream holiday would be sleeping for three days straight. Three days of down time to go nothing. It wouldn’t matter where it was.
A: Who’s your favorite artist?
NC: The German Neo-Expressionist Anselm Keifer.
A: What’s your preferred mode of transportation?
NC: Walking—it keeps me connected to the world, which is the feel for my work. Being face to face with it works the best for me.
A: What’s your favorite film?
NC: Harold and Maude—I’ve probably seen it 20 times.
A: If you found $20, what would you do with it?
NC: At this point in life I would hand it off to someone who needed it, but 10 years ago it would have been a different scenario.
A: What’s on your iPod?
NC: Shirley Horne’s Here’s to Life. I’ve listened to it every morning for the past 20 years.
A: What’s your idea of happiness?
NC: Living my dream.
A: What’s your idea of misery?
NC: Not following my dream.
A: If not yourself, who would you want to be?
NC: President Obama.
A: What’s your preferred drink?
NC: Water—I don’t drink alcohol.
A: What’s your hidden talent?
NC: Male stripper!
A: What books are on your bedside table?
NC: I just got Not A Toy: Radical Character Design in Fashion and Costume by Atopos and Vassilis Zidianakis
A: What’s your guilty pleasure?
NC: Haagen-Dazs ice cream—all of the flavors!
A: What’s your motto or favorite quote?
NC: Why be a queen when you can be a star! A friend recently saw it written at a Dairy Queen and texted it to me.
A: What’s your favorite art space?
NC: Maxxi, the new museum of contemporary art designed by Zaha Hadid in Rome. It’s amazing!
A: What would you want your last meal on earth to be?
NC: Soft-shell crabs, for sure, and my Grandma’s lemon meringue pie
A: Who/what was your first love?
NC: Amsterdam—I love it!
A: What’s your favorite time of day or year?
NC: My favorite of the day is early morning, like at 6am. My favorite time overall is the opening of one of an exhibition.
A: The world would be a better place if…
NC: we all worked from a place of truth.
Nick Cave: Ever-After is on view at Jack Shainman Gallery from September 8 to October 8, while Nick Cave: For Now takes place at Mary Boone Gallery from September 10 to October 22. Limited edition prints of Nick Cave’s signature Soundsuits—ranging in price from $200 to $3000—are currently available at Artspace.com.
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