Cindy Sherman - Carte Blanche New York Sunday, November 7, 2010 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Metro Pictures, Cindy Sherman, May 8 – June 27, 2004 (another print exhibited); Shanghai, Shanghai Biennale 2004, September 28 – November 28, 2004 (illustrated); Hannover, Kestnergesellschaft, Cindy Sherman, September 23 – November 7, 2004 (another print exhibited)

  • Literature

    M. Schluter, Cindy Sherman – Clowns, Munich 2004 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The clown: defined as a: a fool, jester, or comedian in an entertainment (as a play); specifically: a grotesquely dressed comedy performer in a circus b: a person who habitually jokes and plays the buffoon (Merriam-Webster).
    Cindy Sherman’s clowns scream of excess. More make-up, 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 cliched 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 facade 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 swirling 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.
    In the present work, the only diptych in the series, she gives us two clowns. Though there is clearly latent tension between them, both the man and the woman look downhearted, as if they have both been tricked or realized that they were the subject (and object) of a joke. These are not the evil clowns of nightmares and horror films but the clowns that might entertain children at a birthday party. In a nod to Jeff Koons, our male clown holds a miniature pink balloon dog while his female counterpart is adorned with a Carmen Miranda-esque balloon hat. In referring to his balloon dog (fig 1), Koons once said: “it’s a very optimistic piece; it’s like a balloon that a clown would maybe twist for you at a birthday party. But at the same time it’s a Trojan horse. There are other things here that are inside: maybe the sexuality of the piece.” (David Sylvester, Interviews with American Artists, New Haven,Connecticut, Yale University Press, 2001, p. 339).
    Koons’s statement is true not only for the balloon dogs but for clowns as well. There is an inherent sense of perversion in these seemingly innocent childhood toys and 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.

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Untitled #420

Executed in 2004
Diptych: two Color photographs.
71 3/4 x 45 1/2 in. (182.2 x 115.6 cm) (unframed); 73 1/2 x 47 3/8 in. (186.7 x 120.3 cm) (framed).

Signed, numbered and dated ‘Cindy Sherman 6/6 2004’ (on the reverse).  This work is from an edition of 6.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $1,426,500

Carte Blanche

8 November 2010  6pm
New York