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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Nick Cave

1999
Howard Arkley

synthetic polymer paint on canvas (support: 175.2 cm x 135.2 cm depth 43 cm)

Nick Cave AO (b. 1957) formed his first band, The Boys Next Door, while at school. In 1980 the band changed its name to The Birthday Party and moved to London, where it significantly influenced other punk bands. After The Birthday Party disbanded, he formed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, whose first album was released in 1984. Cave has been involved in films as an actor, screenwriter and composer, and co-wrote and starred in a wry documentary drama about himself, 20,000 Days on Earth (2014). A long-term resident of the UK, Cave has written novels and poetry while performing and issuing albums regularly. His 2013 release with The Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away, was the band’s first Australian number-one album. Cave released his latest album Carnage in 2021, as a duo with long-term member of The Bad Seeds, Warren Ellis.

Howard Arkley and Nick Cave moved in overlapping circles in Melbourne in the late 1970s. One of the first two works commissioned by the Portrait Gallery, Arkley’s painting of Cave was one of the last the artist completed before his death at the peak of his career. The portrait captures the punk mentality and attitude of both artist and sitter in Arkley’s immaculately-finished, psychedelic and incandescent airbrush style.

Commissioned with funds provided by L Gordon Darling AC CMG 1999
© Estate of Howard Arkley. Licensed by Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art.

Artist and subject

Howard Arkley (age 48 in 1999)

Nick Cave AO (age 42 in 1999)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Supported by

The Gordon Darling Foundation (36 portraits supported)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Nick Cave by Howard Arkley

Portrait story

An interview with graffiti artist Marc de Jong about the art of Howard Arkley.

Portrait of a patron

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2007

A new painting by Jiawei Shen captures the vision and resolve of the Gallery's founder, L. Gordon Darling AC CMG.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency