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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Metro Pictures, Cindy Sherman, November – December 1981 (another example exhibited)
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cindy Sherman, July 1987. The exhibition later traveled to Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art and Dallas Museum of Art
    (another example exhibited)
    Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work, 1975-1995. This exhibition later traveled to Malmö Konsthall and Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, May 1995 – February 1996 (another example exhibited)
    Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Cindy Sherman: Retrospective. This exhibition later traveled to Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Prague, Galerie Rudofinum; London, Barbican Art Gallery; Musée d’art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art and Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, November 1997 – January 2000 (another example exhibited)
    New York, Skarstedt Fine Art, Cindy Sherman: Centerfolds, May – June 2003 (another example exhibited)
    Paris, Jeu de Paume, Cindy Sherman. This exhibition later traveled to Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Art and Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, May 2006 – September 2007 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    A. Grunberg, “Cindy Sherman: A Playful and Political Post-Modernist,” New York Times, 22 November 1981 (another example illustrated)
    P. Schjeldahl and L. Phillips, Cindy Sherman, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1987, p. 54 (another example illustrated)
    Z. Felix and M. Schwander, Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work, 1975-1995, London, 1995, no. 38 (another example illustrated)
    A. Cruz, E. Smith, A. Jones, Cindy Sherman: Retrospective, New York, 1997, p. 102, pl. 73 (another example illustrated)
    Cindy Sherman: Centerfolds, Skarstedt Fine Art, New York, 2003, pp. 16-17 (another example illustrated)
    R. Durand, C. Tyler, J. Criqui, Cindy Sherman, Jeu de Paume, Paris, 2006 (another example illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told.

    (Arthur Danto, Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills, New York, 1990, p. 9)

    Cindy Sherman’s images are simultaneously terrifying and humorous, uninviting and insidiously seductive. The sole subject of her photographs is the artist herself, yet they are not self-portraits. Through variations in costume, makeup, setting, facial expression, and pose she invents a different character for each frame. Each woman has a different appearance and personality, making it difficult to believe that Cindy Sherman lies beneath the mask of each character. In effect, she operates a one woman production studio encompassing the myriad roles of director, actress, costumer, lighting specialist and cinematographer. Alluding to movies, magazines and theatre, she bequeaths the practice of photography with a scale and color comparable only to painting. The rich and dense palette that comprises her pictures suggests half-forgotten, half-remembered, and half-dreamed images. As seen in the present lot, Untitled (#88), 1981, from the Centerfolds series, the darkened background and detached expression of the subject activates a mysterious charge through its jolting objectivity and absence of authoritative reassurance.

    A young blonde woman hugs her exposed knees, gazing beyond the camera, past the viewer, and into the distance, with a disconcerting detachment. She is intimately close in proximity, yet her mood is not of engagement, but of clear introspection. Her hair is matted to her forehead and a scrape is evident on her knees. A red glowing light consumes her and reflects back from her large, glassy eyes. A shadow is cast across the bridge of her nose, and coupled with her contemplative gesture, it leaves only half of her face uncovered. Set within a shadowy scene, no clues to her curious circumstances are revealed; even her attire is too vague to tell a story. Captivated by her haunting expression, one feels compelled to empathize with the woman in the picture and to find the source of her suffering and her gaze, but we observe a face unconscious of being discovered.

    In 1981 and 1982, Sherman made twelve 2 x 4 foot photographs, of which the present lot is one example. A takeoff on centerfolds from adult magazines, the format for the series was inspired by a commission for Artforum magazine. The dimensions provided a more life-size frame, engendering a more engaged vantage point for the viewer. Each image in the series depicts Sherman as a different young woman looking off to the side with a vacant, almost meditative look. All of the figures fill the frame of the picture plane and are cropped in close. This format proved more technically demanding for Sherman, especially in its lighting design. She began to use colored lights, which create the theatrical effect of a campfire or of light streaming through a window. The settings and costumes are minimal in comparison to her earlier film stills, consequently, they emphasize Sherman’s powerful abilities to communicate drama solely through her physical performance.

    Exploring the elements of what constitutes character has always been at the forefront of Sherman’s work. Ever since her Untitled Film Stills, she has mastered the labyrinth of portrayals and projections. What we usually find in adult magazine centerfolds—young females clothed incompletely or suggestively and sprawled in an erotic pose—is superficial smiles, glossy lips, and inviting eyes. However, Sherman’s Centerfolds are consumed in selfreflection, completely unaware of being watched. Both terrible and enticing, their new form posits a psychologically complex seduction. As seen in the present lot, Untitled (#88), 1981, Sherman has made herself unkempt, even dirty, and the red light shines as if intruding upon or interrogating the girl, yet we cannot help but be seduced by the very elements which comprise the picture. Sherman’s Centerfolds become more emotionally vulnerable, and therefore more compelling than those that flood the pages of adult magazines.

    In this Centerfold series, the point-of-view adopted by the camera is from above, angled slightly down at the subject. That, coupled with the extreme horizontality of the image’s landscape format, promotes a dominant field of vision for the viewer. This vantage point reinforces the girl’s fragility, as well as highlights her fetal vulnerability. Sherman creates a deeply emotional connection between the subject and the viewer; but the subject and the viewer remain ignorant of each other’s daydreams and fantasies. It is in this space that the viewer becomes a voyeur, and the subject becomes spectacle. Sherman, through burdening the viewer with all the lascivious qualities of the watcher, imposes a powerful complex of shame in the observer.

    The girls portrayed in Sherman’s Centerfolds are neither autobiographical nor fictitious. Despite being creations of the artist, the photographs provide a glimpse into the soul of the sitter, revealing, as candid pictures do, more to us than formal portraits. While the girl depicted in Untitled (#88), 1981, is invented, her feelings of aimlessness and melancholy pervade the picture plane with great intensity and earnestness. Sherman orchestrates a flawless performance—the stage is set, the costumes selected, and the hair styled to perfection. Looking at these images, we share the human qualities of the characters in them—vulnerability, introspection, timidity, and discomfort— much as we do in a moving piece of theatre. The result is that Cindy Sherman earns the title of one of the greatest performance artists in visual art, one whose abilities to dramatize her subjects transcends any glossy boundaries.

  • 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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PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE NEW YORK COLLECTION

17

Untitled (#88)

1981
chromogenic print
24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm)
Signed, dated “Cindy Sherman 1981” and numbered of ten on the reverse.
This work is from an edition of ten.

Estimate
$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for $1,314,500

Contemporary Art Part I

7 November 2011
New York