Cross-cultural wall of beads

How does the bas-relief sculpture by multi-genre artist Nick Cave connect two cultures?


Author: Sylvia Borissova

Nick Cave. 2012. Bas-relief sculpture. (Horse beads, pipe wipers, sequins, found objects. 610 x 762 sq. cm). US Embassy in Dakar, Senegal.
© Nick Cave—Visual Artist Facebook page

On the wall in the anteroom of the US Embassy in Dakar, there is a miraculously mounted monumental bas-relief sculpture—a conglomeration of thousands of colorful strings of horse beads, pipe wipers, sequins and objects collected from two continents: Africa and North America.

Installed in 2012, the work of Chicago-based artist Nick Cave is a combination of embossed circles and patches of intricate colorful nets, occupying full 46 square meters; it weighs the impressive 227 kilograms and took Cave and his ten assistants more than 3 months to make it. The bas-relief sculpture, tailored to the place and environment, literally connects pieces of American and Senegalese cultures and thus has become a unifying symbol of the people.

Project curators Virginia Shore and Robert Soppelsa are working on the Art in Embassies program, run by the US State Department. The program promotes intercultural exchange through the visual arts and currently covers more than 200 locations in 189 countries.

And that’s how the colorful bas-relief wall was created, uniting two cultures and the artistic means of expression of Cave and three other local artists—Seni M’Baye, Loman Pawlitschek and Daouda N’Diaye:

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