Cindy Sherman - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Metro Pictures, Cindy Sherman, May 8 – June 27, 2004 (another example exhibited); Hannover, Kestnergesellschaft, Cindy Sherman, September 23 – November 7, 2004, n.n. (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    M. Schlüter, Cindy Sherman Clowns, Hannover, 2004, n.p. (another example illustrated in color)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Cindy Sherman’s clowns scream of excess. More makeup, more colors, more costumes, more emotion. The result is bright, bold and accosting — the very essence of a clown. By dressing up and becoming one of them, Sherman aims to discover and reveal the pathos hidden behind their artificial exteriors. She becomes an actress on her own stage set, an investigative entertainer, always interested in exploring questions of identity and clichéd roles. Masters of disguise, both Sherman and her clowns seek to show us that what you see is not always what you get.

    Beneath this heavy façade of opaque makeup and mismatched clothing are people who may, or may not, have anything in common with the clowns they portray. Sadness may masquerade as laughter, malice as benevolence. It is this sometimes frightening tension that interests Sherman. This tension is heightened in the present series by the brilliant psychedelic background from which her festooned performers emerge. This is Sherman’s first foray into digitally altering the backgrounds of her work — with the goal that these photographs should look like clown posters, advertisements even. Her clowns sit posed and facing the viewer, ready for hire, to make them laugh or cry.

    The clown in the present work looks downhearted, as if she has been tricked or realized that she was the subject (and object) of a joke. She is not the evil clown of nightmares and horror films but the kind of clown that might entertain children at a birthday party.

    The photograph is visually dynamic, with the clown’s bright yellow hair and blue costume popping against the rosy red and pink background. Though our clown seems sweet, there is an inherent sense of perversion to these seemingly innocent childhood entertainers that is both profoundly disturbing and equally relevant. Sherman is not afraid to explore and cross conventional boundaries and so she gives us her rainbow assortment of clowns, each exhibiting a range of emotions, which alternately makes us laugh, cry and cringe.

  • Artist Biography

    Cindy Sherman

    American • 1954

    Seminal to the Pictures Generation as well as contemporary photography and performance art, Cindy Sherman is a powerhouse art practitioner.  Wily and beguiling, Sherman's signature mode of art making involves transforming herself into a litany of characters, historical and fictional, that cross the lines of gender and culture. She startled contemporary art when, in 1977, she published a series of untitled film stills.

    Through mise-en-scène​ and movie-like make-up and costume, Sherman treats each photograph as a portrait, though never one of herself. She embodies her characters even if only for the image itself. Presenting subversion through mimicry, against tableaus of mass media and image-based messages of pop culture, Sherman takes on both art history and the art world.

    Though a shape-shifter, Sherman has become an art world celebrity in her own right. The subject of solo retrospectives across the world, including a blockbuster showing at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and a frequent exhibitor at the Venice Biennale among other biennials, Sherman holds an inextricable place in contemporary art history.

    View More Works


Untitled #422

Color coupler print.
49 1/4 x 55 1/4 in. (125.1 x 140.3 cm.)
Signed and dated ‘Cindy Sherman 2004’ and numbered of six on a label adhered to the reverse of the backing board. Edition five of six.

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $350,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York