Nov 10, 2023

Nick Cave for the Home


Supported by

The politically engaged artist, whose work is now on display at the Guggenheim Museum, talks about his new line of fabrics.

By Sandra E. Garcia

The artist Nick Cave took a break from overseeing the installation of his latest work at Kansas City International Airport to discuss a side project: a line of fabrics and wall coverings he has created in collaboration with Knoll Textiles.

"I approached it the way that I would approach a collage," Mr. Cave said in a phone interview last week. "Taking many, many ideas and sort of putting them together."

Mr. Cave, 63, spoke over the din of a crane beeping in the background. His creation for the airport terminal, an immersive sculpture called "The Air Up There," is the size of a football field.

He is perhaps best known for the sculptural pieces known as soundsuits, many of which are part of "Nick Cave: Forothermore," the career-spanning exhibition that had a five-month run at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago last year and is now at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. The first soundsuit was inspired by the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers in 1991; a more recent one depicts Trayvon Martin, the Florida high school student who was shot and killed by a security guard in 2012.

Mr. Cave, who is the chair of the fashion design department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has long sifted through flea markets and thrift shops to gather materials for his work — plush toys, artificial flowers, ceramic figurines, buttons, sequins, plastic tag fasteners and other objects. For his collaboration with Knoll, he came up with 10 designs in keeping with his usual methods and aesthetic.

"How do I look at a soundsuit and translate that into a commercial sort of fabric?" Mr. Cave said. "That is really unique with these textiles."

The wall coverings, upholstery and drapery in the collection range in price from $35 a yard to $949. They include Guise, a luminous fabric made partly from chenille yarns, and Forest, an intensely colorful wall covering based on his installation "Architectural Forest."

"We are always looking for a designer or an artist who has a very unique and distinct aesthetic, but also an interesting use of materiality," Caroline Ollivier, the marketing director at Knoll Textiles, said. "I think that by pushing the boundaries with technology and techniques in creating textiles, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of that sort of depth and layering and movement with some of them."

Translating Mr. Cave's designs into textiles required careful work, she added.

"There is a drapery fabric called Heard, which really captures Nick's handmade aesthetic in that there are five different colors of ribbon in rows," Ms. Ollivier said. "They’re hand-sewn, row by row, ribbon by ribbon. Then they are sewn on one end and they’re loose on the other, so that when the fabric moves there is this beautiful sway and movement."

Mr. Cave said the items in the collection had to work on their own, rather than just recreate his art.

"The core of the concept comes from a body of work that reads as one point of view," he said. "I was very interested in all of that, but also in working very independently, developing each individual cloth or wallpaper or upholstery and making sure that it was strong and that it provided the energy and the sort of vibration that I had imagined."