A bold graphic installation by Chicago-based artist Nick Cave that’s been embroiled in zoning battles in upstate New York has triumphed in its legal issues this week, months before the exhibit moves to the Brooklyn Museum this spring.
The village of Kinderhook in Columbia County had argued that Cave’s 160-foot-long installation with designer Bob Faust, called Truth Be Told, with 25-foot-tall letters wrapped outside the Jack Shainman Gallery’s brick building, was a sign subject to local zoning law, according to Artnews.
The installation, which was mounted just before the November 2020 elections, infuriated local politicians, with the mayor demanding it be taken down after the gallery failed to receive permission to mount the exhibit last fall. The code enforcement officer threatened a $200 fine for every day Truth Be Told was installed, Artnet News reported.
Kinderhook’s mayor Dale Leiser told the New York Times in November that the artists didn’t have a permit and that “the village’s position is that we’re going by our code, and New York State code.”
The zoning board issued a ruling this week declaring Cave’s piece artwork protected by the First Amendment, thus escaping the oversight of the village board.
The zoning board said the artwork’s words “were displayed as a political message and art for a temporary period of time and therefore Kinderhook Village Code does not apply to regulate the exhibit as a sign,” Artnews reported.
“GREAT NEWS - TRUTH PREVAILED! After a long, hard fight, “Truth Be Told” was ruled to be a work of ART!,” Cave posted on his Instagram account, and thanked the gallery “for your support, persistence and commitment!”
Cave had envisioned the piece as a response to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter protests and created it for the gallery’s “States of Being” art and social justice initiative.
The opposition from the village administration was “egregious” and “has repercussions that reach far beyond The School to issues of suppression, underscoring the kinds of microaggressions that chip away at the voices and freedoms of artists, arts organizations and beyond,” Cave wrote on his instagram account ahead of a January 25th zoning board meeting.
“I didn’t set out to have this fight, but I will always stand behind my artists and for what I believe to be the greater good,” Shainman, who also owns two galleries in Chelsea, told Artnet News Thursday.
In May, the exhibit will be displayed outside the Brooklyn Museum, whose president and Chief Operating Officer David Berliner had testified at the zoning hearing on Cave’s behalf.