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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York

  • Exhibited

    Cindy Sherman, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 26 February - 11 June for another print exhibited in a smaller size

  • Literature

    Danto, Untitled Film Stills: Cindy Sherman, pl. 34
    Flammarion SA/ Éditions Jeu de Paume, Cindy Sherman, n.p.
    Rizzoli, Cindy Sherman 1975-1993, pp. 24-25
    Thames & Hudson, Cindy Sherman: Retrospective, pl. 53
    The Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, pl. 52

  • Catalogue Essay

    Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills from 1977-1980 stands at the intersection of Pop Culture and Feminism: presenting a series of images that are not to be interpreted as actual women but as massmarketed stereotypes of women, all of whom are impersonated by the photographer herself. As stereotypes, they are the most diluted and commonly-accessible Western manifestations of female archetypes— a hero, a vixen, a femme fatale, a jilted lover, an ingénue, and as viewers see in the current lot, the hostess. The strength of archetypes lies in their being naturally accepted as universal truths, their origin forever mythical and thus immune from being disproven. In fact, their primary function is to appear as free of human origin, allowing them to serve as original patterns for emulation, evading questioning.

    The 1960s art scene, at the heels of which Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills series was created, was dominated by the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Robert Indiana, and James Rosenquist. Collectively, these artists appropriated existing signs, be it soup cans, comic strips, advertisements, or the American flag, depleted them of their original meaning, and recontextualized them as emblems ushering in a new era—one defined by mass-production, heavy commercialization, and dwindling uniqueness. By doing so, the artists revealed the inherent emptiness of the image, standing for nothing more than itself.

    As one of the few female artists working in photography at the time, Sherman repudiated what she believed to be the patriarchal dominance in the art world—art produced by male artists, sold by male art dealers and collected by male collectors. Hence, it was imperative for Sherman to be the protagonist of her own body of work. In the two oeuvres by Sherman that preceded Untitled Film Stills, namely, Bus Riders and Murder Mystery People, both from 1976, she explored the clichés of individuals one expected to encounter at bus stops and within thecinematic genre. In both series Sherman inhabits the male and female characters, and moreover, the subjects depicted are continuously anchored to reality by the consistent presence of the same background (white wall and hardwood floors), and most notably, the camera cord. For her next body of work, of which the current lot is an example, Sherman focused solely on women, did away with the camera cord, and seamlessly wove the setting into the type of woman she was depicting, staging palpable scenes that immediately thrust viewers into the reality portrayed.

    While the first six works in the Untitled Film Stills series were of moments in the life of an imagined actress, the remaining sixty-three works spread across the spectrum of what some Feminist scholars termed as women’s “prepackaged identities.” Like Warhol’s repetitive silkscreened cataloguing of soup types, Sherman presented the inventory of female stereotypes perpetuated in B-movies, film noir, and horror movies. By doing so, Sherman’s Film Stills transform viewers’ initial understanding of the images as plausible takes from a vaguely recognizable movie into a source of self-consciousness upon realizing the underlying social critique. Sherman insists that the women are not self-portraits, but rather, portraits of the roles people had come to expect of women.

    In Untitled Film Still # 49, Sherman depicts a hostess standing by a bar, a glass in one hand. By looking over her shoulder she is signaling her awareness of another presence in the room, which subsequently builds a sense of tension and suspense. Her reflection in the mirror and her shadow on the door heighten the dramatic mood, which is enhanced by the dark corridor and the high ceilings. This prompts viewers to construct a narrative around the woman, all that may have happened before and all
    that could follow. But regardless of the narrative constructed, Sherman’s subject is not meant to be read as representing a real woman but merely a socially constructed expectation of one.

  • 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 Film Still # 49

Gelatin silver print, printed 1999.
25 3/4 x 36 in. (65.4 x 91.4 cm)
Signed, dated and numbered 2/3 in ink on the reverse of the mount.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $626,500

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs
[email protected]
+ 1 212 940 1245


4 April 2012
New York