Cindy Sherman (b. 1954)
Untitled #85
signed, numbered and dated 'Cindy Sherman 3/10 1981' (on the reverse)
chromogenic print
24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm.)
Executed in 1981. This work is number three from an edition of ten.
Metro Pictures, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1983
Fuchs, Rainer, ed., Exhibition, Museum moderner Kunst Siftung Ludwig Wien, 1994, p. 88 (another example illustrated).
R. Krauss and N. Bryson, Cindy Sherman 1975-1993, New York, 1993, pp. 93 and 227 (another example illustrated).
J. Heyler, E. Schad, and C. Beck, eds., The Broad Collection, Munich, London, New York, 2015, p. 171 (another example illustrated).
D. Païni, ed., Arte y Cine. 120 Años de Intercambios, Barcelona, 2016, pp. 289 and 90 (another example illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cindy Sherman, July-October 1987, p. 18, no. 50 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Skarstedt Fine Art, Cindy Sherman: Centerfolds 1981, May–June 2003, p. 14 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Paris, Jeu de Paume; Bregenz ,Kunsthaus Bregenz; Copenhagen, Louisiana Museum for Moderne Kunst; Berlin, Martin Gropius Bau, Cindy Sherman, May 2006–September 2007, pp. 92, 93 and 249 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center and Dallas Museum of Art, Cindy Sherman, February 2012-June 2013, pp. 149 and 242, pl. 99 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museet; Stockholm, Moderna Museet; Zurich, Kunsthaus Zurich, Cindy Sherman–Untitled Horrors, May 2013–September 2014, p. 58 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Los Angeles, The Broad, Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life, June-October 2016, pp. 54 and 154, no. 40 (another example exhibited and illustrated).

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Alex Berggruen
Alex Berggruen

Lot Essay

Rendered with a palpable sense emotional intensity, Untitled #85 is arguably one of the most powerful works from Cindy Sherman’s Centerfold series. The image simultaneously imparts a sense of vulnerability and self-awareness and anticipates that something is about to happen. This scene recreates the feeling of a classic Hollywood horror movie, capturing the tension between protagonist and antagonist. As a single image, Untitled #85 is able to project such strong emotion on its own, without the slow building music, the creaking hardwood floors, or the flashing lights that we find so impactful in films. Thus, Sherman’s consummate understanding of our visual comprehension allows her to capture the entire cinematic scene inside one single picture frame.

In Untitled #85, Sherman has cast herself in a bright, colorful guise, adopting the persona of a young innocent girl. She appears dressed in a reddish checkered smock dress, much like the ones stereotypically seen on adolescent girls of upper class families. With her dress rising up her leg, her blonde hair tousled and unkempt, and arm clenched tightly around her knee, it is an image that is at once both seductive and anxiety-inducing. The young woman is paralyzed by fear as she stares off-camera into the distance, waiting for her unknown fate. The image glows with a radiant, artificial light that appears both theatrical and cinematographic, heightening the drama of the composition.

Along with the entire Centerfold series, this work is inspired by the cultural depiction of women in photo spreads made famous by Playboy magazine. These layouts are designed to make the female subject as exposed as possible; pulling her out of the two-dimensional paper and into the homes of masculine gazing eyes everywhere. Unlike Playboy’s women, though, Sherman’s characters are all clothed. Sherman’s unique way of cropping the Centerfold photographs plays a significant role in its emotional depth. The figures are shot close up, and then cropped in an aggressive manor as if they are being forced into the frame. The background has been greatly reduced, leaving the viewer with a subject that is so exposed it is uncomfortably intimate.

Cindy Sherman presents us with work that allows us to write our own narrative, which is in part what makes her work so compelling. Sherman rarely reveals her private intensions, as she prefers for every viewer to have their own interpretation. Her images have a dynamic relationship to public images, from kitsch (film stills and centerfolds) to art history (Old Masters and Surrealism) to green-screen technology and the latest advances in digital photography. Sherman’s infamous study of portraiture and self-portraiture provides a new lens through which to examine social and gender assumptions.

Throughout her career, Sherman has continued to study photography and its claims to truth and neutrality. In Untitled #85, the subject appears to be caught in a fleeting moment of high anxiety, yet the composition was actually completely staged by the artist. For each pose, Sherman carefully dresses the set, produces costumes and designs lighting without assistance, becoming both subject and object. As Eva Respini has noted, "her role as both subject (and object) and producer of images of women puts her in the unique position of enacting the traditionally male viewpoint of photographer whilst also undermining it" (E. Respini, 'Will the Real Cindy Sherman Please Stand Up?', Cindy Sherman, exh. cat, Museum of Modern Art, New York 2012, p. 29). In doing so, she dispels the fallacy of the photograph's objectivity, revealing how every image is necessarily constructed and in turn constructs societal codes. With an incredible influence over what is popularly referred to as the Pictures Generation, Sherman represents a foundational figure within an important group of artists including Sherrie Levine, Louise Lawler, Richard Prince, David Salle and Jack Goldstein.

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