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Details & Cataloguing

Shake It Up: Works from the Mario Testino Collection - Afternoon Sale

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Cindy Sherman
B. 1954
UNTITLED #145
signed, dated 1985 and numbered 2/6 on the reverse
colour photograph
183 by 125.7 cm. 72 by 49 1/2 in.
This work is number 2 from an edition of 6, plus 1 artist's proof.  
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Provenance

Studio Guenzani, Milan

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998

Exhibited

Essen, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Cindy Sherman - Photographien, December 1985 - January 1986, p. 17, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)

Tokyo, Parco, Cindy Sherman, 1987, p. 65, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cindy Sherman, July - October 1987, n.p., no. 106, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)

Milan, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea di Milano, Cindy Sherman, October - November 1990, p. 54, illustrated in colour 

Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Ars Pro Domo, May - August 1992, p. 253, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)

Oslo, Kunsternes Hus; Norway, Museum of Contemporary Art; and Helsinki, Museum of Contemporary Art, Louise Lawler, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, March - May 1993 (edition no. unknown)

New York, Skarstedt Gallery, Fairy Tales - 1985, May - July 2000 (artist's proof exhibited)

Paris, Jeu de Paume; Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; and Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Cindy Sherman, May 2006 - September 2007, pp. 121 and 255, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)

Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum; Stockholm, Moderna Museet; and Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Untitled Horrors, May 2013 - September 2014, p. 101, illustrated in colour (artist's proof exhibited)

Literature

Rosalind Krauss and Norman Bryson, Cindy Sherman: 1975-1993, New York 1993, p. 151, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown) 

Anon., 'Once Upon a Time', Exit, No. 33, April 2009 p. 122, illustrated in colour 

Catalogue Note

In her important, and darkly surreal, Fairy Tales series Cindy Sherman compellingly unveils the disquieting and somewhat grotesque nature of accepted cultural archetypes – namely the insidious tropes of human nature couched within traditional childhood stories. This series represents a pivotal moment in Sherman’s oeuvre, marking as it does the artist’s first wholly undisguised use of prostheses and dummies to radically alter her own image in photographs. In Untitled #145 Sherman masterfully deploys, and humorously subverts, the traditional imagery of fantastical bodily metamorphosis, a central facet to the fairy tale genre, by representing herself as a waxen, androgynous being who appears to melt and morph into the rocky ground. 

In 1985 Sherman was invited to create a series of photographs based on saccharine, children’s fairy tales for the magazine Vanity Fair which have now come to be known as her Fairy Tale worksSherman’s theatrically grotesque responses offer the viewer an entirely different kind of story: an apocalyptic vision of post-humanity. As the eminent professor Jack Zipes discusses, fairy tales provide more than just entertainment, they are “a key agent of socialisation… [that] enables the child to discover his or her place in the world and to test hypotheses about the world” (Jack Zipes, Ed., Don’t Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England, New York 1986, p. 12). Traditionally, the world that is presented in fairy tales can be summarised by the clichéd image of a girl waiting for a handsome prince to sweep her away. The disturbing nature of Sherman’s work, however, assertively explodes this vision, chiming more in tune with eighteenth and nineteenth-century fairy tales by the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson where the saccharine is replaced by the disquieting. 

By presenting herself in Untitled #145 in an almost serpentine fashion, slithering along the pebbled ground, Sherman invites us to consider the archetypal polarities of human and animal. In defying categorisation, Sherman highlights the artifice of social constructs and the psychological character that they manifest. As critic Jan Avgikos adds, “we see a picture of the present that is over articulated in relation to past and future. We see a picture of genetic engineering and biotechnologies and artificial intelligence and cyberspace and ironic faith, or worlds ambiguously natural and artificial, or creatures simultaneously human and animal and machine. We see a picture of post-gender. We see a picture of post-apocalyptic ontology” (Jan Avgikos, ‘Institutional Critique, Identity Politics and Retro-romanticism: Finding the Face in Cindy Sherman’s Photographs’, in: Exh. Cat., Munich, Sammlung Goetz, Cindy Sherman, 1994, pp. 51-53).

The extraordinary power of Sherman’s satire lies in its ability to visually reveal abstract constructs. For what makes the Fairy Tales so unusual is not simply the horror that they depict but that we, as viewers, are unaccustomed to seeing the genre explicitly represented on a monumental scale as cinematic photographs. Amelia Arenas eloquently sums up this sentiment: “More than the experience of watching a horror movie, Sherman’s photographs recall the visions that come to haunt us later, reminding us that what keeps the child awake at night after a scary movie is not a story, but an image” (Amelia Arenas, ‘Afraid of the Dark: Cindy Sherman and the Grotesque Imagination’, in: op. cit., 1986, p. 164).

Shake It Up: Works from the Mario Testino Collection - Afternoon Sale

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London