Cindy Sherman - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Tuesday, May 10, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Metro Pictures, Cindy Sherman, May 8 - June 26, 2004 (another example exhibited)
    Hanover, kestnergesellschaft, Cindy Sherman, September 24 - November 7, 2004, exh. cat. n.p. (another example exhibited, illustrated)
    Paris, Musée du Jeu de Paume; Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Cindy Sherman, May 16, 2006 - September 10, 2007, pp. 218-219, 269 (another example exhibited)
    New York, The Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco Museum of Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Dallas Museum of Art, Cindy Sherman, February 26, 2012 - June 9, 2013, pp. 194-195, plate 145 (illustrated)

  • Literature

    Jan Avgikos, "New York, Cindy Sherman, Metro Pictures," Artforum, September 2004, p. 265

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I came to clowns to show the complex emotional abysses of a painted smile.” - Cindy Sherman

    Beginning with her iconic film stills of the 1970’s, Cindy Sherman—ever the ultimate master of disguise—has taken an artistic turn towards the monstrous and surreal with her fairy tales, black humor and clowns, as seen in the present lot, Untitled #417, 2004. As Sherman explains, “What attracted me to clowns was the possibility of stepping into different clown personalities that allowed me multiple layers of meaning: the potential of being sad, disturbed, a psycho killer. I'm interested in what I imagine about the person who's made up as a clown. The greatest challenge for me was to allow a personality to emerge from behind the clown make-up: a personality that has nothing to do with my own. It was important to me that each one of these personalities looks different: I wanted in a way to find something behind the make-up, something that shimmers through.” (Cindy Sherman, quoted in Cindy Sherman: Clowns, Hanover, 2004, p. 54)

    The composition of the present lot depicts three clowns, peeking their heads up into colorful Op Art waves; the kitschy nature of figures against a fabricated backdrop alludes to circus posters, plastered around town to advertise the incoming troupe. The larger, central clown cocks his head to one side, with a grimacing, confrontational gaze; he sizes you up as the target of his next joke. Sherman, coated in a mask of makeup, plays both the human figure beneath the makeup and the persona of a clown. She presents her clowns as drowning in malice, lustful of their audiences’ willingness to participate in the charade. Sherman is not the first to explore the figure of a clown as a character of contradictions; Paul McCarthy and Bruce Nauman have both paved the way. Nauman’s renowned video entitled Clown Torture touches on the nature of madness and the anxiety of being watched while Sherman’s clowns seem to have complete control, taking command of the screens upon which they are placed, staring down their viewers with their gruff disposition. Sherman’s clowns offer no impending fun, just a trick up their sleeve.

  • 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 #417

chromogenic print
61 1/2 x 91 1/2 in. (156.2 x 232.4 cm)
Signed, numbered and dated"Cindy Sherman 4/6 2004" on a label affixed to the reverse.
This work is number 4 from an edition of 6.

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $245,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 10 May 2016