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signed, numbered and dated 'Cindy Sherman 1/3 1980' (on a paper label affixed to the backing board)
gelatin silver print
30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm.)
Executed in 1980. This work is number one from an edition of three.
Metro Pictures, New York
Private collection, Cologne
Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
D. Frankel, Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York, 2003, pp. 44-45 (another example illustrated).
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Cindy Sherman: Film Stills, March-June 1995 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Fact/Fiction: Contemporary Art that Walks the Line, February-April 2000 (another example exhibited). Aspen Art Museum, Circa 1979, June-July 2004.
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Lot Essay

This work is registered as #55 in the Metro Pictures archive.

A nighttime alley, the glow from a solitary streetlamp illuminating the cobblestone street, a lone figure makes her way, her shock of blond hair a bright corona outlining her figure. The buildings seem to lean in on the protagonist, lending the setting a claustrophobic air. A fall-out shelter sign, first manufactured in the early sixties, is visible on the white wall on her left, the low camera angle creating a sense of looming presence and impending trouble. Presented as a Hitchcockian film-noire heroine, the sole protagonist in Untitled is Cindy Sherman in her simultaneous roles as heroine, makeup artist, stylist, director, and photographer, an artist whose extraordinary body of work addresses woman's identity as a cultural construct--a series of feminine types that explores the autocracy of media representation.

With consummate finesse and intelligence, Sherman mines stereotypes in a compellingly persuasive narrative of visual codes, drawing from a trove of filmic references--lighting, cropping, framing, camera angle--as well as bodily conventions--clothing, gestures, and poses: "Some of the women in the outdoor shots could be alone, or being watched or followed. The shots I would choose were always the ones in-between the action. These women are on their way to wherever the action is (or to their doom) or have just come from a confrontation (or a tryst)" (C. Sherman, "The Making of Untitled," Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2003, p. 8). Such situations, in which women are compromised or victimized, highlight Sherman's interest since the 1970s in spectacular culture--photography and film, in particular--drawing attention to the issues surrounding the representation of women undergirded feminist critiques of the period, agitating a range of artistic practices.

One of a series of black and white photographs in which the artist photographed herself as a cast of feminine clichés, Sherman here appropriates cinematic vocabulary, seeming to replicate splices from film reels or studio publicity stills. Exposing the masculine gaze that defines for a culture what is purported to be feminine, the series, made between 1978 and 1980, appropriates and subverts such visual coding, presenting the identities of nearly seventy different scenes and feminine types. In doing so, Sherman assumes the roles both of protagonist and auteur, victim and sadist, eliciting the viewer's gaze while exposing the male tyranny controlling it: "The pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure. In their traditional exhibitionist role women can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness" (L. Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Bloomington, 1989, p. 366). Indeed, Sherman's subjects are primarily there to be seen: the librarian reaching provocatively for a book, the sophisticated art collector sitting in wait, the new girl dwarfed by the big city, the hitchhiker waiting vulnerably around the bend.

Sherman telescopes the blonde starlet--any number of conventionally curvaceous "bombshells" (a word with male connotations, both military and physical)--in acts of appropriation that lure us into a simulated scene that is itself uncanny. We know it because we have lived it--either in movie theaters or real life, with this caveat: that whether Sherman's women are in domestic settings or in film, these scenes are constructed, fictional accounts. With intelligence, technical mastery, and a straightforward sincerity--no knowing winks here--Sherman captures through various guises and personae our culture of spectacle, where the prototype stands for authentic identity.

Held in major international collections, Sherman's photographs have amused and disturbed, affirmed and questioned with a tenacity and fierceness that underscores the artifice and performance--the fiction--of the lived life. Untitled represents the artist at the beginning of her enormously influential and celebrated career, a knowing twenty-something who will undertake provocative and sustained explorations of contemporary female identity in series after series of eloquent photographic masterpieces (a full retrospective at MoMA will be mounted in 2012)--works that stand as ostensible cultural parodies, but which function, in fact, as chilling and trenchant acts of social critique.

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