• Post-War and Contemporary Art  auction at Christies

    Sale 2440

    Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

    11 May 2011, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 6

    Cindy Sherman (B. 1954)

    Untitled

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Cindy Sherman (B. 1954)
    Untitled
    signed, numbered and dated 'Cindy Sherman 10/10 1981' (on a paper label affixed to the reverse)
    color coupler print
    24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm.)
    Executed in 1981. This work is number ten from an edition of ten.


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    This work is registered as #96 in the Metro Pictures archive.

    Cindy Sherman's Untitled is the outstanding example of work from her highly acclaimed Centerfolds series. Artforum commissioned the series as a special project for magazine in 1981, and the twelve images are among the most important of Sherman's career. This particular image is one of the most sought-after and is appearing at auction for the first time. Its significance within Sherman's body of work is demonstrated by its inclusion in the permanent collection of many prestigious museums, including New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Akron Art Museum in Ohio and the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Untitled showcases all the themes and ideas of Sherman's best work from this period, yet it is also the most paradoxical of the series. Sherman composed the image clearly, but left the narrative behind it deliberately ambiguous. Sherman adopted the personae of a teenage girl in this large, almost life-size photograph - lying supine on the floor, clutching a page torn from the newspaper classifieds. Who is this girl? Why is she lying on the floor? Is she scheming to find true love, or the brokenhearted victim of a failed love affair? The work exudes shock and confrontation through its scale and the boldness of Sherman's tight compositional framing, yet the figure at the work's center is also endearing and curiously vulnerable. Sherman places these conflicts at her work's very heart, as she questions, not only the medium of photography, but also our wider assumptions about gender and truth in the modern world.

    In Untitled , Sherman builds on the universal idea of the centerfold taken from countless "girlie" magazines such as Playboy, presenting us with the image of an anxious adolescent girl lying on her floor. Unlike her earlier Film Stills series, the person projected here is not an available seductress presented for the male gaze but instead an emotionally ambiguous adolescent. The girl in the gingham dress does not meet our gaze but instead looks off into the middle distance, as if distracted by dreams of an unrequited love affair or a romance that is still a figment of her imagination. However her schoolgirl naivety is betrayed by her freshly painted blood red nails, heavily rouged cheeks and bright red lipstick - all signs of burgeoning sexuality, all enhanced by the provocative upturned hem of her skirt. These works remained tinged with the strong hint of sexuality that runs through much of Sherman's work, although they are not overtly sexual, like her pin-ups from the Film Stills series. "There is something vaguely erotic about the pictures and the prone [sic] position of most of the women in their simultaneous suggestion of fear and seduction. Caught in a raw emotional state, unaware of anyone's gaze, these women emerge put of the darkness, like the subconscious itself" (L. Phillips, Cindy Sherman Centerfolds, New York, 2002, p. 6).

    Although Sherman designed these images to resemble quick snap-snots of a teenager's life, she heavily choreographed, acted, and staged them herself. She is both the subject and executor of these images, and she takes the utmost care in both, as she develops her various guises and produces each photograph. She will dress the set, produce the costumes, design the lighting and finally execute the photograph entirely by herself, in her solitary world, without the use of assistants. By controlling every aspect of the image's production, she dispels the long held belief that photography is the medium of "truth". She exposes it as being as manipulative as any other artistic medium, as the critic Roberta Smith pointed out when the Centerfolds made their debut in 1981: "The psychological weight of the work is so direct that at times it seems to free the viewer to see very clearly the formal manipulations which are at its source. Sherman makes you understand the components of photography with a particular bluntness which is one of her trademarks. The roles of color, light, cropping, space, eye contact (or lack of it) are continually stated and restated and we read them just as we do details of clothing, hairdo, posture, flooring. Despite all this the effect is not simply didactic; everything is both laid out and convincingly, ingenuously synthesized." (R. Smith, "Review: Cindy Sherman," Village Voice, New York, November 18, 1981).

    Untitled adopts a very different pictorial space from her earlier work, in what some critics have seen as a dramatic and powerful shift. Works such as this occupy a horizontal format, rather than the vertical format of her earlier Film Stills. She accompanies this perspectival shift with a change in orientation, photographing several of the subjects from above, as in this work. Some have identified the body's slight downward angle as creating a gravitational pull, the figure sliding out of the picture frame into the space usually occupied by the viewer, thereby introducing instability and insecurity to Sherman's work.

    Untitled is among the best examples of her work. Many of the world's major art collections include examples from this edition, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was also included in Sherman's debut European exhibition, which toured the continent in the early 1980s. It remains an important part of her unique oeuvre, and it will come under renewed attention in a major retrospective of her work, the first in over a decade, at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 2012. Sherman took perceived notions of identity and turned them on their head, innovatively testing the cultural and conceptual boundaries of her chosen medium. However hard we try, we can never tell exactly what is happening behind the mask that Sherman creates. The Centerfolds series, and Untitled in particular, mark a high point in her career and unlock her entire exploration of identity.

    Provenance

    Metro Pictures Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that this lot is not being guaranteed.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Collection of Robert and Jane Rosenblum


    Literature

    J. Williamson, "Images of 'Woman'- the Photographs of Cindy Sherman," Screen, vol. 24, no. 6, November-December 1983, p. 109 (another example illustrated).
    P. Schjeldahl, Cindy Sherman, New York, 1984, no. 60 (another example illustrated in color).
    I. Takano, Cindy Sherman, Tokyo, 1987, pp. 36-37 (another example illustrated in color).
    P. Schjeldahl, Cindy Sherman, Munich, 1987, no. 60 (another example illustrated in color).
    R. Krauss, Cindy Sherman, New York, 1993, pp. 90-91 (another example illustrated in color).
    G. DuMont and W. Dickhoff, eds., Cindy Sherman: Kunst Heute Nr. 14, Cologne, 1995, pp. 20-21 (another example illustrated).
    J. Flam, et al., The Paine Webber Art Collection, New York, 1995, pp. 14-15, 220 and 221 (illustrated in color).
    R. Brooks, et al., Richard Prince, London, 2003, pp. 34 and 160 (illustrated).
    J. Burton, ed., Cindy Sherman, Cambridge, 2006, p. 71, no. 20 (another example illustrated).


    Exhibited

    New York, Metro Pictures, Cindy Sherman, November 1981.
    Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Eight Artists: The Anxious Edge, April-June 1982, p. 14 (another example illustrated).
    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Ghent, Gewad; Bristol, Watershed Gallery; Highfield, University of Southampton, John Hansard Gallery; Erlangen, Palais Stutterheim; West Berlin, Haus am Waldsee; Geneva, Centre d'Art Contemporain; Copenhagen, Sonja Henie-Niels Onstadt Foundation and Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, December 1982-April 1984, no. 60 (another example illustrated in color).
    Tokyo, Laforet Museum, Next Wave of American Women: Cindy Sherman, April-May 1984, n.p. (another example illustrated).
    Kassel, Documenta 7, June-September 1982, pp. 320 and 402 (another example illustrated in color).
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art and Dallas Museum of Art, Cindy Sherman, July 1987-April 1988, p. 18, no. 60 (another example illustrated in color). Milan, Padilione d'Arte Contemporanea di Milano, Cindy Sherman, October-November 1990, p. 40 (another example illustrated in color).
    Kunsthalle Basel; Munich, Staatsgalerie moderner Kunst and London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Cindy Sherman, March-September 1991, p. 40 (another example illustrated in color).
    Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus, Louise Lawler, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, January-March 1993, n.p. (illustrated in color).
    Shiga, Museum of Modern Art; Muragame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art and Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Cindy Sherman, July-December 1996, pp. 96-97 (another example illustrated in color).
    Hamburg, Deichtorhallen; Konsthall Malmö and Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work, 1975-1995, May 1995-February 1996, no. 40 (another example illustrated in color).
    Caracas, Fundación Museo de Bellas Artes, Cindy Sherman: Una selección de las colecciones de la Eli Broad Family Foundation, May-July 1997, pp. 26-27 (another example illustrated in color).
    Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Prague, Galerie Rudolfinum; London, Barbican Art Gallery; Ville de Bordeaux, CAPC Musée d'art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art and Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Cindy Sherman Retrospective, November 1998-January 2000, pp. 42, 106-107 and 197, pl. 78 (illustrated in color).
    New York, Museum of Modern Art, Modern Contemporary: Art At MoMA Since 1980, September 2000-January 2001, pp. 46 and 541, no. 41 (another example illustrated in color).
    New York, Skarstedt Fine Art, Cindy Sherman Centerfolds 1981, May-June 2003, pp. 30-31 and 49, no. 35 (another example illustrated in color).
    Paris, Jeu de Paume; Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Cindy Sherman, May 2006-September 2007, pp. 249-317 (another example illustrated in color).
    New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984, April-August 2009, pp. 239 and 327, pl. 82 (another example illustrated in color).