Untitled Film Still #5A

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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York
    Private Collection, New York
    Skarstedt Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, acquired from the above in 2007
    Sotheby's, New York, May 10, 2011, lot 5
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Max Protech Gallery, Re: Figuration, 1979 (another example exhibited)
    New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, June - September 1997 (another example exhibited)
    Paris, Jeu de Paume; Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Moderne Kunst; Berlin, Martin Gropius Bau, Cindy Sherman, May 2006 - September 2007, n.p. (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Mark Rosenthal, et. al., Art of Our Time: The Saatchi Collection, London, 1984, p. 467 (illustrated)
    Peter Schjeldahl, Michael Danoff, Cindy Sherman, New York, 1984, pl. 4 (illustrated)
    Arthur C. Danto, Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Stills, New York, 1990, pl. 4 (illustrated)
    Rosalind Krauss, Cindy Sherman: 1975 - 1993, New York, 1993, pp. 14-15 (illustrated)
    Cindy Sherman Photographic Work 1975 - 1995, exh. cat., Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, 1995, cat. no. 7 (illustrated)
    Cindy Sherman, exh. cat., Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 1996, cat. no. 10, pp. 30-31 (illustrated)
    Cindy Sherman, exh. cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1997, pl. 4 (illustrated)
    Cindy Sherman Retrospective, exh. cat., Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, 1998, pl. 5, p. 57 (illustrated)
    Catherine Morris, The Essential Cindy Sherman, New York, 1999, p. 35 (illustrated)
    Uta Grosenick, ed., Art at the Turn of the Millennium, Cologne, 1999, p. 467 (illustrated)
    Jasper Johns to Jeff Koons: Four Decades of Art from the Broad Collections, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2001
    Saatchi Collection, I am a Camera, London, 2001, n.p.
    Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, exh. cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, 2003, p. 56 (illustrated)
    Chery Krause Knight, "Just Another Day: Dutch Genre Themes in Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stil," Visual Resources, Vol. 20, no. 4, December 2004, pp. 275-286 (illustrated)
    Mark Sladen, Ariella Yedgar, Panic Attack! Art in the Punk Years, London, 2007, p. 156 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

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

    Cindy Sherman’s renowned Film Stills created between 1977 and 1980 represent some of the most iconic photographic imagery of the last century; the present lot is the fifth still from the series of sixty-nine. Sherman shot the early Film Stills, including Untitled #5A, in the fall of 1977 in the New York City loft apartment on John and South Street that she shared with her then boyfriend, artist Robert Longo. The genesis of Sherman’s Film Stills is her childhood fascination with the television culture of the 1960’s. The artist recounts a time when she was left alone to entertain herself during an adult dinner party: “I wound up watching TV in the basement, eating my little dinner alone watching Hitchcock’s Rear Window while the adults partied upstairs. I loved all those vignettes Jimmy Stewart watches in the windows around him - you don’t know much about any of those characters so you try to fill in the pieces of their lives.” (Cindy Sherman in Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1997, p. 5)

    For the first six stills Sherman photographed herself acting out the daily life of the same blond female character. Untitled #5A, 1977 depicts this persona with a short and fashionable coif; she purses her glossy lips, clutching an airmail envelope with its iconic striped edges and the numerous pages of what appears to be a very lengthy letter. As Sherman describes the scene: “In #5 I have the edge of chair on one side, and I propped up a pillow on it, and a blanket over the pillow, to make it look like there might be someone sitting in the chair to whom I was reading the letter.” The fewer visual clues Sherman provides, the more the viewer can speculate as to the significance of each meticulously placed piece of evidence. The narrative circumstances are left ambiguous, but the image contains enough information to ignite the viewer’s imagination: is the woman responding to saddening news? Who has sent the letter? The unraveling of Sherman’s complex imagery enchants the viewer; capturing moments of intimacy hidden from the prying lense. The femme-fatale of the present lot averts our gaze with shifting eyes, while her mouth is full of the words she is about to convey to her invisible companion.
    Untitled #5A is printed in the largest format of the Film Stills, one from a rare edition of only three. The 30 x 40 inch size lends itself to Sherman’s dramatic, cinematic effect. Sherman explained that graininess of the image lent itself to the specific mood that she believes can only be conveyed through a less-than-perfect print. “I wanted those first six shots to look cheesy so I deliberately used warmer chemicals in the darkroom to make the film reticulate, which gives it a sort of cracking, grainy look. I didn’t care much about the print quality; the photographs were supposed to look like they cost fifty cents, so needless to say I wasn’t using the zone system for perfect exposure. One reason I was interested in photography was to get away from the preciousness of the art object.” (Cindy Sherman in Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1997, p. 10.)

  • Artist Bio

    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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Ο ◆10

Property of a Private American Collector

Untitled Film Still #5A

gelatin silver print
30 1/2 x 39 3/4 in. (77.5 x 101 cm)
Signed, numbered and dated "Cindy Sherman 1/3 1977" on the reverse of the sheet.
This work is number 1 from an edition of 3.

$500,000 - 700,000 

sold for $461,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 May 2016