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Nick Cave emerging more fully in Chicago

School of the Art
Institute’s The Walk

When: 5:30 p.m. May 2

Where: Millennium Park

Tickets: $500

Info:; there are earlier shows that feature students only, with tickets at a lower price

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Updated: May 28, 2014 6:36AM

Perhaps you know of Nick Cave because of his Soundsuits, the wearable works
of art and sound that have stolen the ears and hearts of everyone from middle America to the Netherlands.

Or perhaps you know of Cave because, as a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he has overseen The Walk, the annual fashion show and inventive night where students flaunt fabulous fringy creations on a catwalk erected in Millennium Park.

Regardless of how you know him, the new news is that on Friday, Cave is going to perform during the show. This is rare.

“It’s the first time I’ve really even performed in Chicago,” Cave says. “Most of the time my performance work has always been in New York. I feel vulnerable in a sense because I tend to do that work outside of [the city].”

Cave won’t reveal exactly what we will see, but the series of three mini-performances will showcase the artist accompanied by Chicago house music, “extreme vogueing” and kids from the South Side. And, quite possibly, says Cave, backflips.

“We’ve got to understand what a talent we have here in Chicago, and having him perform at home is fitting,” says Margaret MacLean, who co-chairs The Walk. “Have you seen him perform before? His performances are like no other. They’re multidimensional and multidisciplinary. He’s combining so many things: art and fashion and sculpture and performance artistry. He is iconic.”

Seeing Cave alone is well worth the evening show ticket prices, which start at $500 and run to $25,000. It’s also one of those fashion star events, which in the past has seen the likes of Maria Pinto, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte and Ikram Goldman. And, coolness bonus, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Naomi Beckwith is this year’s emcee.

Cave is also being honored as this year’s “Legend of Fashion,” an award that has gone to fashion elite including the Mulleavys and Cynthia Rowley.

“It was a very interesting process because we looked this year at the history of the department,” Katrin Schnabl, the school’s new Sage Endowed Chair of Fashion Design, says. (She caught the baton from Cave, a former Sage chair, now that he’s on sabbatical.)

“We looked at how there’s always been a pioneering spirit and we looked around and there’s Nick right in the midst. I’m very proud to be stepping into his big shoes,” she said.

That said, the past week has been a whirlwind for Cave, who finished work on his performances and is recently home from New Zealand. He’s also working on an upcoming fall installation, and — gasp — said installation (at NYC’s marquee Jack Shainman Gallery) won’t feature his Soundsuits. Cave is going Disney on us and putting them in the vault for a spell.

“We’re just sort of taking a hiatus,” he says, shrugging. “There are other things I’m interested in, so I’m very much about tapping into those areas and, you know, the whole community will be sort of shocked to see the shift, but I think the shift is on point. I don’t want to be known my entire life for just doing that.

“I’m just ready to, sort of, continue to evolve.”

Cave is careful about introducing newness. He doesn’t often change the massive works of art hanging on his walls, some acquired 10 years ago at Miami’s Art Basel, others hailing from West Africa. His collection both stands out and melts into the background of his South Loop loft. It’s not inaccessible. Unlike some high-art homes, his pieces seem new yet lived in. Touched.

“My collection is really based around an emotion,” says Cave, gesturing to a colorful 2012 piece created by fellow Chicagoan (and MacArthur Genius grant recipient) Kerry James Marshall.

“I wake up to my destiny every day because I’m surrounded by it. What I have on my walls is what I want to see every day. It’s either vulgar or very modest, reserved, subtle. Lovely.”

He also plans to bring more of his performance art to the city and is tentatively planning some outdoor art exhibitions or perhaps performances.

If so, hallelujah, because what he did for New York — with live art dancing in the train station — would be wonderful here.

“Nick Cave has the ability to mesmerize. He creates magic, and to work with him in Grand Central Terminal to bring an incredible experience to our public was an opportunity we felt compelled to make happen,” says Sandra Bloodworth, director for MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design. “Public art is just that, for the public, and Nick’s work is clearly grounded in his desire to share his work with the public. They not only see it, they experience it.”

Ahem. Nick?

“It’s coming! It’s coming!” he says. “I’m all about community outreach. I think we [artists in the city] need to do a lot of things. More sculpture is not gonna hurt anyone.”


Twitter: @adriennewrites

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