Untitled #197

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York

  • Exhibited

    Defining Eye: Women Photographers of the 20th Century, Selections from the Helen Kornblum Collection, Saint Louis Art Museum, 23 September 1997–11 January 1998

  • Literature

    D.A.P/Distributed Art Publishers, Defining Eye: Women Photographers of the 20th Century, Selections from the Helen Kornblum Collection, pl. 69, this print
    Flammarion, Cindy Sherman, n.p.
    Schirmer/Mosel, Cindy Sherman: History Portraits, pl. 32
    The Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, pl. 119

  • Catalogue Essay

    By the time Cindy Sherman embarked on her History Portraits in 1988, she had long perfected the art of shape-shifting; transforming and re-presenting herself as an array of characters alluding to female archetypes as seen in film and magazines. With this series, Sherman expanded her cultural touchpoints to include art history.

    The genesis of the series was an invitation to produce a set of porcelain objects using the original 18th century designs produced for Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV’s mistress. For the imagery that adorned the dinnerware and tea service, Sherman posed as Madame de Pompadour, thus beginning her exploration into Old Masters portraits.

    Untitled #197 from 1989 is one of the earliest images from History Portraits and was inspired by the bicentennial of the French revolution. In it, Sherman dons a makeshift period costume, not unlike the central figure in Eugene Delacroix’s famous painting of the revolution, Liberty Leading the People, with her wig, the blue patterned fabric background and classical three-quarter seated pose completing the tableau.

    In visualizing and creating the series, Sherman notes, 'Even when I was doing those history pictures, I was living in Rome but never went to the churches and museums there. I worked out of books, with reproductions. It’s an aspect of photography I appreciate: the idea that images can be reproduced and seen anytime, anywhere, by anyone.' This practice of recreating the reproduction provides a separation that Sherman takes even further with her use of prosthetics, noticeably seen here in her augmented nose. The resulting photographs, with their playful idiosyncrasies, possess a levity that stands in contrast to the staid respectability of Old Masters portraits. While some photographs from the series reference specific paintings, Untitled #197 does not; instead alluding to a more generic tradition within art history and thus perfectly illustrating Sherman’s masterful ability to engage with an artistic or cultural genre while simultaneously subverting it.

    Wholly committed to maintaining the aesthetic feel of the reference, Sherman presents the series in the same size as original Old Masters portraits and places them within the type of museum-style frames seen encasing classical portraits in museums throughout the world.

    Another print of this image is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

  • 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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118

The Feminist Thread: Photographs from the Collection of Helen Kornblum

Untitled #197

1989
Chromogenic print.
30 3/4 x 20 7/8 in. (78.1 x 53 cm)
Signed, dated and numbered 3/6 in ink on the reverse of the flush-mount.

Estimate
$150,000 - 250,000 

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New York Auction 1 October 2019