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Cindy Sherman (B. 1954)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more VISIONARIES: WORKS FROM THE EMILY AND JERRY SPIEGEL COLLECTION
Cindy Sherman (B. 1954)

Untitled Film Still #21

Details
Cindy Sherman (B. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #21
signed 'Cindy Sherman' (on the reverse)
gelatin silver print
8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm.)
Executed in 1978. This work is number six from an edition of ten.
Provenance
Metro Pictures, New York
Janet Borden, Inc., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1989
Literature
P. Schjeldahl and M. Danoff, Cindy Sherman, New York, 1984, p. 47, pl. 17 (another example illustrated).
A. Danto, Untitled Film Stills: Cindy Sherman, Munich, 1990, pp. 46-47, pl. 16 (another example illustrated).
R. Krauss, Cindy Sherman, 1975-1993, New York, 1993, pp. 28, 30-31 and 225 (another example illustrated).
Cindy Sherman, exh. cat., Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, 1997, pp. 10-11, 16 and 38-39, no. 14 (another example illustrated).
C. Morris, The Essential: Cindy Sherman, New York, 1999, pp. 41 and 43 (another example illustrated).
S. Rice, ed., Inverted Odysseys: Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, Cindy Sherman, Cambridge, 1999, p. 7, fig. 1.3 (another example illustrated).
G. Knape, ed., The Hasselblad Award 1999, Cindy Sherman, Göteborg, 2000, p. 41 (another example illustrated).
H. S. Bee and C. Heliczer, eds., MoMA Highlights: 350 Works from The Museum of Modern Art New York, New York, 2004, p. 295 (another example illustrated).
J. Burton, ed., October Files 6, Cambridge, 2006, pp. 101-102 and 221 (another example illustrated).
G. Schor, "Cindy's Original Scene: Doll Clothes," Parkett, no. 78, 2006, p. 22 (another example illustrated).
D. Birnbaum, C. Bulter and S. Cotter, eds., Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks, London, 2011, pp. 30 and 478 (another example illustrated).
W. Gompertz, Where are you looking at?: the surprising, shocking, and sometimes strange story of 150 years of modern art, London, 2012, pp. 352-353, fig. 31 (another example illustrated).
P. Moorhouse, Cindy Sherman, London, 2014, pp. 29 and 37, fig. 32 (another example illustrated).
G. Selz, Unstill Life: A Daughter's Memoir of Art and Love in the Age of Abstraction, New York, 2014, pp. 575 and 740 (another example illustrated).
D. Crimp, Before Pictures, New York, 2016, pp. 254 and 256-257 (another example illustrated).
N. Mirzoeff, How to See the World, New York, 2016, pp. 52-53 (another example illustrated).
Exhibited
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Cindy Sherman, December 1982, n.p., pl. 17 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art and Dallas Museum of Art, Cindy Sherman, July-October 1987, n.p., pl. 17 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Kunsthalle Basel; Munich, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst and London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Cindy Sherman, March-September 1991, p. 19 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Directions, Cindy Sherman: Film Stills, March-June 1995, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Hamburg, Deichtorhallen; Malmö, Kunsthall and Lucerne, Kustmuseum, Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work, 1975-1995, May 1995- February 1996, pl. 4 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Shiga, Museum of Modern Art; Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art and Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Cindy Sherman, July-December 1996, pp. 69 and 180, no. 18 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, The Complete Untitled Film Stills: Cindy Sherman, June-September 1997, pp. 34-35 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
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 and Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Cindy Sherman: Retrospective, November 1997-January 2000, pp. 2 and 68, pl. 22 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-2000 Part II, September 1999-February 2000.
Paris, Jeu de Paume; Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Cindy Sherman, May 2006-September 2007, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years, September-December 2012, pp. 109 and 292, no. 143 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, February-June 2012, pp. 40, 103 and 241, pl. 35 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Von Bildern. Strategien der Aneignung, August 2015-January 2016 (another example exhibited).
Berlin, Galerie Buchholz, Douglas Crimp-Before Pictures, New York City 1967-1977, September-October 2016 (another example exhibited).
London, Saatchi Gallery, From Selfie to Self-Expression, March-May 2017 (another example exhibited).
Special notice

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Brought to you by

Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills are among the most evocative and iconic images of the 1970s and 1980s. Here, a young career girl appears to be searching the streets of New York City for a job, or is she in fact an actress playing a young career girl searching the streets of New York for a job? The success of Untitled Film Still #21 lies in the ambiguity that exists between these possibilities. In fact, in reality neither scenario is strictly true; the photograph is a self-portrait constructed by Sherman to examine the modern cultural depictions of women in the mass media. The artist is portrayed as a nervous, new arrival searching her surroundings with its domineering, slightly sinister tall buildings looming up behind her. The bow-topped woven hat above tidy curls and starched white collar spread across a tweed jacket suggest a job hunt or a journey to work but the wary, side-eyed look suggests her focus lies on a tense encounter happening outside of the frame. Yet, for all the deliberation and intention that took place to construct the image, Sherman herself gives no indication that she is aware that the photograph is being taken, so absorbed in the character is she.

Sherman recalls her intention for the Untitled Film Stills, and in particular a selection that features the same blonde woman with close-cropped curls that can be seen here, in #21. “At first I wanted to do a group of imaginary stills all from the same actress’s career, so in those first six photographs the hair doesn’t change all that much—I think I made her a blond because that seemed very actress-y and perhaps because I still had brown hair… I tried to make her look older in some, more of an ingénue in others, and older-trying-hard-to-look-younger in others. I didn’t think about what each movie was about, I focused on the different ages and looks of the same character” (C. Sherman, Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York, 2003, p. 8).

Since the late 1970s Sherman has scoured the American cultural unconscious, plucking images, symbols, and archetypes to investigate. Her intuitive, associative, playful, and subversive approach has redefined the medium of photography from a conversation about capturing moments on film, to a conceptually driven, performative approach that uses the camera as one tool among many used to construct an image. Sherman’s mind contains an endless catalogue of film and advertising images spanning the 20th and 21st centuries, from which she plucks images to become the basis of her photographs. These early works are hauntingly familiar of American film-noir, like those made by the great director Alfred Hitchcock, yet one can never quite pinpoint a particular film or actress being portrayed. “I liked the Hitchcock look, Antonioni, Neorealist stuff.” Sherman has said. “What I didn’t want were pictures showing strong emotion. In a lot of movie photos the actors look cute, impish, alluring, distraught, frightened, tough, etc., but what I was interested in was when they were almost expressionless. Which was rare to see; in film stills there’s a lot of overacting because they’re trying to sell the movie. The movie isn’t necessarily funny or happy, but in those publicity photos, if there’s one character, she’s smiling.
It was in European film stills that I’d find women who were more neutral, and maybe the original films were harder to figure out as well.
I found that more mysterious. I looked for it consciously. … None of the Film Still characters was a particular stretch because I never knew what I was setting out to do—it wasn’t like I had these visions in my head that I had to realize. Some of the photographs are meant to be a solitary woman and some are meant to allude to another person outside the frame” (C. Sherman, ibid., p. 8).

In fact, Arthur Danto has developed a name for Sherman’s characters, christening them “The Girl in Trouble.” All of these women are seductresses, as is Sherman herself. Danto has explained, “The stills are dense with suspense and danger and they all look as if they were directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The invariant subject is The Girl in Trouble, even if The Girl herself does not always know it…The girl is always alone, waiting, worried, watchful, but she is wary of, waiting for, worried about, and her very posture and expression phenomenologically imply The Other: the Stalker, the Saver, the Evil and Good who struggle for her possession.... Each of the stills is about The Girl in Trouble, but in the aggregate they touch the myth we each carry out of childhood, of danger, love, and security that defines the human condition” (A. Danto, quoted in Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills, New York, 1990, pp. 13–14). Yet, Sherman and her women have an inherent power derived from the artist’s awareness of the roles bestowed upon women. The present photograph hinders the viewer from making any singular reading or trope, instead augmenting the possibilities of interpretation through imagined narratives. Both cannily familiar, yet impossible to identify, #21 do not exist in any “original” form—not in an actual film, nor in a publicity shot or ad—rather it is caught in an unusual limbo—the peculiar condition of being a copy without an original.

Sherman made her debut as an artist during the rise of the Feminist movement in the United States and Europe, when a number of art, film, and cultural critics such as Laura Mulvey endeavored to describe the ways in which film and art had positioned women as objects of desire instead of subjects with their own agency. Sherman’s work gave way to post-modern critiques about how certain manners of looking can be manipulated to regulate or oppress individuals within a culture. In Sherman’s appropriation of female tropes, she diminishes the power of androcentric imagination in cinema. She turns the “male gaze” on its head to further expand a singular interpretation into a myriad of possibilities, subsequently inviting a female voice into the conversation. As Mulvey has written about Sherman’s work, “Cindy Sherman’s art is certainly postmodern. Her works are photographs; she is not a photographer but an artist who uses photography. Each image is built around a photographic depiction of a woman. And each of the women is Sherman herself, simultaneously artist and model, transformed, chameleonlike, into a glossary of pose, gesture and facial expression” (L. Mulvey, “A Phantasmagoria of The Female Body,” in Cindy Sherman, Paris, 2006, p. 284).

Held in major international collections, Sherman’s photographs have amused and disturbed, affirmed and questioned with both a tenacity and fierceness that underscores the artifice and performance—the fiction—of the lived life. The Untitled Film Stills 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—works that stand as ostensible cultural parodies, but which function, in fact, as chilling and trenchant acts of social critique.
“It was in European film stills that I’d find women who were more neutral, and maybe the original films were harder to figure out as well. I found that more mysterious. I looked for it consciously.” Cindy Sherman

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