“Truth be Told:” Nick Cave in Kinderhook, NY
Kinderhook: Signs and Art
Kinderhook– a quaint town, like any other, in the Hudson Valley of upstate New York. This town is home to less than 10,000 people. Historically speaking, Kinderhook was founded by Dutch settlers. By default of its location in the Hudson Valley, the town is similarly founded on formerly indigenous land and built by the hands of smuggled and chained African slaves.
Nick Cave is an American artist, dancer and sculptor. Cave recently sent ripples through Kinderhook in a bold art installment at the School, Jack Shainman’s New York Gallery. Controversy over the piece has only recently been resolved.
A sign, or art? This is the question the zoning board of the village of Kinderhook pondered. Building codes and definitions of art fueled the back and forth fight, though the power of art won the ultimate decision.
Nick Cave and “Truth be Told”
The School is another branch of Jack Shainman’s Manhattan art gallery. The gallery is located in a classically built brick building, dating back to 1929. Cave’s piece, titled “Truth be Told” (2020), consists of the aforementioned phrase hung on the exterior facade of the School. The work is constructed in black vinyl letters, and stretches 160 feet across the front, and 29 feet high.
Cave explains the genesis of the piece as originating not long after the murder of George Flloyd. The piece is bold, simple and blunt: the truth must be told regarding racial inequality and police brutality. Cave intended to create conversation surrounding racial injustice. The conversation became about artwork removal and zoning violations, belying the point at hand. Truth must be told in a society that too often neglects the facts.
On February 4th, it was decided that the piece was indeed art, not a sign. No removal was deemed necessary. The Brooklyn Museum has acquired the piece for its upcoming Spring installation of works in 2021. To honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day Cave removed the words “be Told.” “Truth”is what remains on the building. The truth is that censorship of black voices seeps deep into the modern art world today.