Cindy Sherman - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 13, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Metro Picture, Cindy Sherman, 15 November–23 December 2008
    New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, 26 February–11 June 2012, then travelled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (14 July–8 October 2012) Minneapolis, Walker Art Center (10 November 2012–17 February 2013), Dallas Museum of Art, 17 March–9 June 2013 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    E. Respini, Cindy Sherman, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2012, pl. 104, p. 156 (another example illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present lot is from Cindy Sherman’s Society Portraits, a series of works from 2008 that were included in her major retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2012. These colour photographs are a continuation of her investigation into ideas of beauty, ageing and self-image. They offer a critique of today’s standards of beauty and glamour as well as issues of class. The characters are women ‘of a certain age’ from the privileged classes struggling with the impossible standards of beauty demanded in our culture.

    In this piece, Sherman poses as a politician’s wife, blatantly attempting to appear a certain way: elegant, sophisticated and wealthy. The subject casts herself as a prominent middleaged woman, confronting the viewer with her gaze and pose, far from the gendered positions of vulnerability of her Film Stills and Centerfolds from the late 70s and early 80s. The lush, green background alludes to the character’s status and possessions, in the tradition of portraits of the aristocracy from the Renaissance on. Furthermore, the subject seems to be an apparition in the middle of the forest; this is the first time Sherman uses a green screen and later inserts separate backgrounds digitally. The large-scale format of the picture highlights the visible signs of heavy make-up, wrinkles, exaggerated rouge on the cheeks and a possible face-lift along with the Botoxed forehead, all adding to the theatrical element of her work.

    The grotesque and theatrical vein that runs along her work is evident in the Society Portraits. In her 1988-90 series of History Portraits, Sherman’s subjects are explicit references to Old Master paintings such as those by Raphael, Botticelli and Caravaggio. Similarly, the present lot is a direct allusion to society portraits of the dominant class by painters such as George Romney and Thomas Gainsborough. Society Portraits embrace high-society affirmations in a society obsessed with image and status. The subject is floating against the backdrop of her estate and one can immediately place her as a well-to do, middleaged woman probably married to a man in a position of power through visual codes such as her coiffed hair, impeccable dress and fine jewellery. Although she is quite capable of immaculate makeup techniques, her use of these is very evident and can be even jolting and unpleasant. Sherman has developed an extraordinary capability to drastically transform her looks, gender and age, yet in this work she is recognizable and is coming to terms with herself as a mature artist.

    Typically of Sherman, this confrontational portrait can be alarming as well as poignant. Disturbing and graceful, the character Sherman impersonates reeks of her own speculation about the self, which is at the heart of Sherman’s work. Her exploration of how identity and gender roles are defined through visual imagery has made Sherman one of the most prominent artists of the second half of the twentieth century.

  • 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 #469

chromogenic colour print
156.5 x 152.4 cm (61 5/8 x 60 in)
Signed, numbered and dated ‘Cindy Sherman 5/6 2008’ on a label affixed to reverse of the backing board. This work is number five from an edition of six.

£180,000 - 220,000 

Sold for £205,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

14 February 2013