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Nick Cave’s Truth Be Told. Photo: Nick Cave/Jack Shainman Gallery.
Nick Cave’s Truth Be Told. Photo: Nick Cave/Jack Shainman Gallery.

Brooklyn Museum to Host Controversial Nick Cave Artwork

Nick Cave’s Truth Be Told, 2020, a massive text work currently on display on the exterior of the School, an outpost of Jack Shainman Gallery, in Kinderhook, New York, will move to the plaza of the Brooklyn Museum this spring, the New York Times reports. The work, which comprises the three words of the title cut from black vinyl and spanning the 160-foot-wide face of the gallery, a repurposed high school, sparked outrage from the village government, which has claimed that it is a sign and thus violates city code.

Cave, who created the work in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police this past summer, and Jack Shainman, his gallerist, contend that the text piece, installed at the end of October, is an artwork, not a sign, and is allowed by their special use permit.

Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak plans to feature the work on the museum’s plaza in conjunction with a group show opening May 14 featuring works from the institution’s collection, among them one of the “soundsuits” for which Cave is renowned. Speaking with the Times, Pasternak said that she saw the presentation of the work as an opportunity to show solidarity with Cave and to address the “exclusion and erasure” of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color).

“Museums are being called on to tell the truth, from the painful to the celebratory,” she said. “We can invite a constructive conversation.” Gallery owner Jack Shainman cited the Brooklyn Museum’s plans to exhibit the piece as “prov[ing] the case that it’s an artwork.”

Pasternak earlier this month signed an open letter from Cave decrying what he termed Kinderhook’s attempt to censor his work; other signatories included Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation; Jessica Morgan, director of the Dia Art Foundation; and Michael Darling, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

This week, in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the upcoming presidential inauguration, Cave will remove the last two words of the work, leaving only Truth standing. The piece is expected to remain in place on the façade of the School until the end of January, as originally planned.