Nick Cave’s art has undergone numerous transformations throughout his lifetime. Still, if one thing is for certain, is that through it all, from leading an aggressive post-punk band, to writing novels, movie scripts, and essays, to leading a less aggressive rock band at present, he has dedicated his life to art.
Once, during the 1980s, when it looked like Mr. Cave would be undone by a serious chemical addiction while living in Berlin, Germany, he wrote out his will. The young man instructed that the little money he had should be used to finance a tiny museum that could house his work.
Decades later, his wish has become reality. It’s not even an initiative that he advocated. It was the idea of the Copenhagen Royal Library, and one that has met with great positive feedback. The exhibition helps showcase the works of an artist that is very much alive, and, according to many of his fans, still producing some of his best work.
With the artist’s help, the Danish institute has used numerous objects belonging to him and created a kind of Nick Cave fairyland. If you are familiar with the man’s music you might be wondering if the place is as thrilling and as eerie as his songs. It is.
I visited this exhibition that encourages you to delve deep into Cave’s work and allows you to interact with his personal tools of creation, memorabilia, and items that paint a clearer picture of the Bad Seeds’ bandleader’s vision. Here’s what we found in this most unique of art shows.
Why was the Nick Cave Exhibition set up?
Stranger than kindness, named after one of the Bad Seeds’ early songs, was created, in the words of the organizers, with the purpose of being a multi-sensory exploration of his many real and imagined universes.
Nick Cave, in terms of global appreciation, is a spoiled man. Nowadays, he is frequently regarded as a kind de-facto spokesperson for art and creativity. His music, in particular, is very popular. The Bad Seeds, his backing group, fill out large venues. However, the music is also critically acclaimed, a luxury unfamiliar to most modern rock groups.
While his output has always been powerful, it’s strange to consider Cave’s evolution. Back in the early 1980s, he lead one of the most exciting post-punk groups, The Birthday Party. The band was formed in Australia out of the ashes of another band, The Boys Next Door. It included Cave’d childhood friends Howard S. Rowland, Tracy Pew, Phil Calvert, and Mick Harvey.
The Australian outfit decamped to London and later lived in Berlin. Their violent live shows became the stuff of legend. While their performances were regarded as eccentric, critics could already see hints of Nick Cave‘s serious literary interests.
When the group disbanded, the singer formed Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. With this group, he produced one of the most consistent bodies of work of any musical artist of the era. While they did score a number of semi-hits, most importantly, the group earned genuine respect from those interested in thought-provoking music. New albums produced with Cave’s involvement are treated as events throughout the civilized world.
Unlike the majority of his peers, Nick Cave has also proven to be extremely disciplined in his creative pursuits. Choosing to rent an office ever since the 1980s, Cave has fought to create work with consistency. This has helped him release many musical works, a couple of novels, and movie scripts.
What items does the Stranger than Kindness exhibition include?
The exhibition is made up of art installations that portray different moments in Nick Cave’s life and career. It includes over 300 objects from Cave’s personal collection. Fans are encouraged to spend as much time interacting with the exhibits as they see fit.
The very first room presents Nick Cave as a child and youth. We see pictures and recordings taken from his time spent in his native Australia. We are also treated, through the form of letters and photos, to the embers of unrest that sent the young man on a trail of artistic discovery.
In the next room, one that resembles a circus tent, we see memorabilia dedicated to the Birthday Party and Anita Lane, one of Cave’s first loves and a collaborator of the group. Letters and diary notes tell the tale of the band’s earliest days spent out on the road. It’s also a fitting testament to one of the most compelling groups of its era.
Next, we get to see a recreation of Nick Cave‘s Berlin bedroom, the one in which he sought solace through some of the most difficult periods in his life. The walls are adorned with hand-scribbled lyrics to songs such Loverman, or Up jumped the devil. The room also contains personal items that hint towards what Cave calls his personal obsessions, such as a Bible, or startling pictures of beautiful women.
We then get to examine Nick Cave’s current office. It includes his vast collection of books containing, particularly, classic works of world literature. Fans can sit at Cave’s piano, look through his personal notes, or admire family photos.
A projection room shows video loops of members of the Bad Seeds offering personal insight into various recordings. The anecdotes shared by the likes of Warren Ellis, Blixa Bargeld, or Mick Harvey will feel particularly poignant to devotees of the group.
Finally, we are treated to a number of rooms that emphasize Cave’s core values, hopes, and love for his family.
Is the trip to Copenhagen’s Black Diamond worth the hassle?
Yes, the exhibition is a worthy tribute and a clever experiment. It’s worth the visit regardless of whether you are a fan of the songwriter, or simply seeking out something out of the ordinary.
Unlike a regular ticket to the museum, this exhibition makes it a goal of provoking the attendant’s imagination by encouraging participation. It offers as much as any visitor is willing to invest. It’s not an exaggeration to assume that fans of Nick Cave‘s work can spend numerous hours here.
Unlike a concert experience or a studio recording, the presentation accomplishes the purpose of telling all facets of Nick Cave’s story. Some events are dramatic, others ordinary, but all play a part in constructing the tale. It’s a complete document of the time and works of one of the most interesting rock artists of modern times, and a reward for his consistency.
The quality of the work of most bands and artists, especially those forced to deal with personal hardships, tends to trail off after a few years. Few manage to keep their bands running, their work flowing, and their appetite for creation intact. These very few do deserve to have an exhibition commissioned to them while they are at the height of their powers.