Untitled (Sound Suit) (Primary Title)

Nick Cave, American, born 1959 (Artist)

Fabric, sequins, embroidery, mannequin
Overall: 99 1/2 × 28 × 16 1/2 in. (252.73 × 71.12 × 41.91 cm)

That incident was so profound in terms of how it made me feel. I felt that I needed to do something, as a Black male living in this country. That’s when I knew that there was a shift in my purpose. 

–Nick Cave


Trained as a visual artist as well as a dancer, Nick Cave began making objects for performance in response to the 1992 televised beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. The assault captured by a passerby, brought into stark reality for Cave the liability of being black and male in the United States. That year, Cave began the Soundsuit series—sculptural objects made to be worn and activated. Comprised of ordinary materials that range from sequins to human hair, buttons, feathers, wire, and other accumulated objects, Cave has striven to create a sense of familiarity while framing representations of social and material culture.


His Soundsuits serve to convey many concepts simultaneously and many of the finished pieces bear some resemblance to African ceremonial costumes and masks. Cave regularly performs in the sculptures himself, dancing either before the public or for the camera, activating their full potential as costume, musical instrument, and living icon.
Gift Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr.
April 27 – July 26, 2014
Identity Shifts, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA,

3 in 30: What does freedom look like?

In recognition of the upcoming Juneteenth Holiday, join VMFA Educator, Karen Getty, as she explores three works of art, all centered on the theme of "freedom," and how artists choose to represent it.

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.