Grand Central Terminal's colourful horses
Vibrantly colourful, dreamlike and almost mythological, Nick Cave’s Soundsuits are wickedly creative works of art that can be displayed as inactive sculptures or worn as part of a performance. The latter is the preferred medium, for it is in this arena that the suits are able to make a noise.
These effervescent constructs hark of something forgotten, of a less enlightened age, but one ultimately characterised by a primitive pureness, where everyone and everything were all part of the same unwritten story.
Perhaps this is owed to the materials that go into each suit’s composition. From found objects to recycled paraphernalia and discarded articles, the history of the Soundsuits is almost universal and long. They not only evoke a lineage but a certain cultural identity as well. They are universal.
For his latest project Heard NY, a collaborative installation with Creative Time and MTA Arts for Transit, the artist developed over 30 spectacular horse-like suits for a fleeting installation in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall. The work is part of a series of events celebrating the historic and iconic station’s centennial year.
Accompanied by live music, this novel and fantastical herd of horses trotted in a rhythmic way across the hall for one week at the back end of March, offering commuters a new experience to the habitual aesthetic and routine of travel.
“The peculiar breeds reflect and dislocate Grand Central Terminal’s dizzying sense of wonder,” said Nato Thompson, chief curator of Creative Time. “Amidst the buzz of the station a swooshing sound emerges, the fibrous material of the horses’ coat brushing up against itself, a calm, windlike sound. The sound of slow time.”
This is one of the many projects that the non-profit arts organisation Creative Time commissions and delivers in New York City. It’s a great way of presenting art to the public, which is a philosophy that Cadogan Tate, one of the sponsors of Heard NY, appreciates, so much so that it has, over the last few years, offered its services for free.
“They try to get people exposed to art that aren’t necessarily going to go to museums,” highlights Stephen McHugh, business development executive at the fine art storage and shipping company in New York. “They are for the public.”
For Heard NY, Cadogan Tate was responsible for the logistics involved with transporting these exquisite and noisy suits from Nick’s studio in Chicago to Grand Central Terminal in New York. Used to dealing with valuable, fragile and fiddly items, this was a relatively straightforward job.
“They were packed into large boxes,” Stephen explains. “They were not fragile at all really. They are raffia and fabric. The way the dancers [from the Alvin Ailey Ballet School] throw themselves around in these costumes, you can tell that they are not fragile or they wouldn’t have held up to what they did.”
Planning for the transportation of the Soundsuits began as early as October and November and then in January. The reason for this was to gauge how the performance was going to pan out and where it could be staged, as well as affording the dancers with an opportunity to test the suits out. The rest were transferred over by Cadogan Tate a few weeks to the launch of Heard NY.
Although it was a fairly smooth operation, the company being used to dealing with all sorts of unique commissions, the only challenge, so to speak, was the early hours, Stephen says. Grand Central Terminal is an extremely busy station, therefore, there was little window of opportunity to deliver the sizeable suits. As such, it was a five in the morning kind of gig. But that’s Cadogan Tate for you, willing to go the extra mile.
“The doors that we had to load the costumes in through are used by almost a million commuters every day, so you couldn’t possibly do it during the week,” he adds. “It was fine at 5am on a Sunday morning because we were the only ones there but other than that it wouldn’t have been possible.”
But such projects are worth it. Cadogan Tate is known for its charitable endeavours and philanthropy. Whether it is working alongside injured servicemen competing in one of the most gruelling endurance events in the world – Ironman UK – or providing support when people are most in need – helping distribute blankets in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy – this is a company that values generosity.
The event was a success. More people than had been expected turned up to be part of the memorable experience, so much so that the hall had to be closed. That’s the kind of reaction that Creative Time is hoping to elicit. Many may not get the artistic vision behind it, the multilayered design behind it, but that doesn’t matter. What is viewed and what is felt is entirely the individual’s own delight.
“In the station, you can either move through the circuits of transport, or step outside of the fray to witness the beautiful choreography of humanity navigating this complexity without so much as a second thought,” elucidates Mr Thompson.
“In their swaying movements, they act as temporal and visual sirens, beckoning and asking the commuter to pause. Resisting the speed of the building occupants, they speak to a pre-industrial period of gathering and groups. They do not try to sell you anything, nor tell you where to go, what to believe, or who you are.”
Cadogan Tate, experts in fine art shipping, works with museums, galleries and artists to deliver secure art storage solutions.