Cindy Sherman - Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale London Thursday, June 27, 2024 | Phillips
  • “The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told.”
    —Arthur Danto

    During the autumn of 1977, just a year after graduating from college, Cindy Sherman embarked on creating her globally renowned series, Untitled Film Stills. These evocative black-and-white photographs delve into pervasive cultural stereotypes, mirroring scenes from classic movie sets. In each image, Sherman adopts a different guise, pose, and scenario, crafting a visual anthology of female roles inspired by Hollywood, B movies, and film noir from the 1950s and 1960s. Despite their cinematic feel, Sherman’s photographs do not reference or represent specific films. She noted, ‘Some people have told me they remember the movie that one of my images is derived from, but in fact, I had no film in mind at all’.i

    The characters in her pictures resonate with the virtual records of cultural references we carry in our minds. Based on types recognisable from Hollywood and the mass media, her subjects often represent deeply embedded stereotypes and clichés, such as the girl on the run, the housewife, and the career girl. Sherman's presence in every picture makes her the protagonist of these staged scenes, directed through various poses, camera angles, and facial expressions.

    Untitled Film Still #32 is pivotal within Sherman’s body of work, standing out for its noir-like ambience and the evocative portrayal of a solitary, contemplative woman. The photograph features a woman in a dimly lit room, caught in the intimate act of lighting a cigarette. The scene is enveloped in shadows, with the flickering match casting a warm, fleeting glow on her face and hand. She is dressed in a short-sleeved blouse, her hair styled loose, cascading waves reminiscent of mid-20th-century glamour. The downward tilt of her gaze and the concentration in her expression suggest a private, contemplative moment. The background is barely discernible, emphasising the isolation and introspection of the character she portrays. This image underscores themes of identity and societal roles, exemplifying Sherman’s talent for storytelling through a single frame. Its haunting cinematic quality captivates viewers, prompting them to reflect on and question the narratives imposed on female identity.

    Sherman’s work challenges and deconstructs the male gaze and the gendered stereotypes perpetuated by popular culture. Her innovative approach to self-portraiture and exploration of identity has influenced countless artists and reshaped the foundations of contemporary art. Untitled Film Still #32, with its depth and subtlety, exemplifies Sherman’s skill in merging art with social commentary, cementing her status as one of the most important and influential artists of her time whose career continues to thrive, provoke, and astonish.


    i Eva Respini, Cindy Sherman, New York, 2012, p.18. 

    • Provenance

      Metro Pictures, New York
      Private Collection, New York
      Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, New York, 13 November 2003, lot 38
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Amsterdam, The Stedelijk; Gewad, MuseumGhent; Bristol, Watershed Gallery; Southhampton, John Hansard Gallery; Erlangen, Palais Stutterheim; Berlin, Haus Am Waldsee; Geneva, Centre d'Art Contemporain; Copenhagen, Sonja Henie and Neils Onstadt Foundation; Humblebaek, Louisiana Museum, Cindy Sherman, 24 December 1982-6 February 1983, no. 20, p. 57 (another example illustrated)
      Tokyo, Laforet Museum Harajuku, Next Wave of American Women Vol. 2: Cindy Sherman, 23 April–4 May 1984, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated)
      New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cindy Sherman, 9 July-4 October 1987, no. 20, p. 17 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 61)
      Hamburg, Deichtorhallen; Malmö, Kunsthall; Luzerne, Kustmuseum, Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work 1975-1995, 25 May 1995-11 February 1996, no. 17, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated)
      Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen; Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía; Bilbao, Sala de Exposiciones Rekalde; Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Cindy Sherman, 10 March 1996-23 March 1997, no.15, p. 16 (another example exhibited and illustrated pp. 40-41)
      Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Prague, Galerie Rudolfinum; London, Barbican Art Gallery; CAPC Musée d'art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Cindy Sherman: Retrospective, 2 November 1997-2 January 2000, no. 37, p. 197 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p.76)
      New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Photography Inaugural Installation, 20 November 2004–6 June 2005 (another examples exhibited)
      Museum Morsbroich, Yes Yes Yes Yes: Difference and Repetition in Pictures of the Olbricht Collection, 16 October 2005–15 January 2006, p. 162 (illustrated)
      Paris, Jeu de Paume; Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Cindy Sherman, 16 May 2006-10 September 2007, p. 243, 317 (another example exhibited and illustrated, n.p.)
      Essen, Museum Folkwang, Rockers Island Olbricht Collection, 5 May-1 July 2007, p. 277
      Kunsthalle Krems, Lebenslust & Totentanz. Olbricht Collection, 18 July - 7 November 2010, p. 186
      New York, The Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Dallas Museum of Art, Cindy Sherman, 26 February 2012-9 June 2013, pl. 43, pp. 241, 262 (another example and illustrated, p. 106)
      Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museet; Stockholm, Moderna Museet; Zürich, Kunsthaus, Cindy Sherman - Untitled Horrors, 4 May 2013-14 September 2014, p. 224 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 42)
      Berlin, Collectors Room, Cindy Sherman: Works from the Olbricht Collection, 16 September 2015-28 August 2016
      London, Saatchi Gallery, From Selfie to Self-Expression, 31 March-6 June 2017 (another example exhibited)
      New York, Cristin Tierney, Under Construction: Photography, Video, and the (Re)presentation of Identity, 6 September-13 October 2018 (another example exhibited)

    • Literature

      Peter Schjeldahl and Michael Danoff, Cindy Sherman, New York 1984, no. 20, p. 53 (another example illustrated)
      Cindy Sherman, exh. cat., Parco Gallery, Tokyo, 1987, p. 95 (another example illustrated, p. 30)
      Arthur C. Danto, Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills, London, 1990, no. 20, pp. 53-54 (another example illustrated)
      Charles Miers, ed., Cindy Sherman: 1975-1993, New York, 1993, p. 225 (another example illustrated pp. 38-39)
      Martin Maloney, I Am A Camera, The Saatchi Gallery, London, 2001, no. 135, n.p. (another example illustrated)
      Johanna Burton, ed., Cindy Sherman, Cambridge and London, 2006, p. 163 (another example illustrated, p.18)

    • 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.

      View More Works

Property of a Prominent Private European Collection


Untitled Film Still #32

signed and dated 'Cindy Sherman 1979' on the reverse
gelatin silver print
image: 37.9 x 48.2 cm (14 7/8 x 18 7/8 in.)
sheet: 40.5 x 50.6 cm (15 7/8 x 19 7/8 in.)

Executed in 1979, this work is from an edition of 3.

Full Cataloguing

£120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for £177,800

Contact Specialist

Louise Simpson
Associate Specialist
+44 7887 473 568

Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale

London Auction 27 June 2024