Cindy Sherman - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 10, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York
    Skarstedt Fine Art, New York

  • Literature

    M. Schlüter, Cindy Sherman: Clowns, Munich, 2004, p. 23 (another example illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    I started thinking about it in terms of the character underneath the makeup, which helped me think about the clown as a whole. That was really fun, once I got to that point.


    (Cindy Sherman in “Cindy Sherman and John Waters: A Conversation,” in Cindy Sherman, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2012, p. 78-79).

    As evident in her many earlier series, Cindy Sherman carefully manipulates pose, gesture, costume, makeup, lighting, and composition to create portraits of both the real and the imagined. By using digital image processing technology, Sherman is able to manipulate and dictate precisely how the final image should stand. She is able to multiply herself and stage herself against painterly backdrops of vibrant and luminous colors. With each series, Sherman repeatedly finds new contemporary forms of representation and consistently advances the topics and subjects which have connected her work through its four decade span. Her Clowns series marks an incredible culmination of the masquerading that has defined Sherman’s work throughout her career. The makebelieve she first explored in her Untitled Film Stills of the 1970s and 1980s is rediscovered and heightened by the increased emphasis on the mask and the make-up of the clown character. Here we see a reflection on the artist’s own artistic process, exposing both the humor and the horror of charade and fantasy.

    In Untitled #414, 2003, we find Cindy Sherman in her guise as a clown, this time donned in a rich turquoise robe, bedecked with dazzling spheres of rosy sequins. Her hands are covered in black leather gloves, detailed with rhinestones along the tops of the fingers. The fashion and color of the enormous robe evoke a Japanese kimono, that engulfs the sitter with its decadent and luxurious fabric. The robe bestows a severe monumentality as it fills three quarters of the composition, and billows down below the frame’s edge. Upon her head, sits a pink wig, feathery and sweet, as if comprised of freshly woven cotton candy. Her face is smothered in thick paints: her eyebrows and lips enlarged with black kohl. Her cheeks and nose are dotted with deep red pigments. Behind her is a glowing, warm backdrop of burnt oranges and balmy reds. The posture and pose of the clown in the present lot, coupled with the rich fabrics of her garments and the chromatic backdrop, evokes the compositions of classical portraiture.

  • 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.

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Untitled #414

color photograph
57 1/4 x 38 1/8 in. (145.4 x 96.8 cm)
Signed, numbered, and dated "Cindy Sherman, 4/6, 2003" on the reverse of the backing board. This work is number four from an edition of six.

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $506,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 May 2012
New York