Lot 42
  • 42

Cindy Sherman

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Cindy Sherman
  • Untitled Film Still #59
  • signed, dated 1980 and numbered 2/3 on the reverse
  • gelatin silver print 
  • 76.2 by 101.6cm.; 30 by 40in.


Metro Pictures, New York

Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1999)

Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Contemporary Art Day Sale, 12 November 2008, Lot 512

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Exhibition Catalogue, Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen; Madrid, Palacio de Velázquez; Bilbao, Sala Rekalde; and Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Cindy Sherman, 1996-97, pp. 62-63, no. 26, illustration of another example

Exhibition Catalogue, Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Prague, Galerie Rudolfinum; Bordeaux, CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art; and Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Cindy Sherman: Retrospective, 1997-2000, p. 90, no. 60, illustration of another example

David Frankel, Ed., Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York 2003, p. 41, illustration of another example

Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Jeu de Paume; Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humblebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; and Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Cindy Sherman, 2006-07, p. 60, illustration of another example

Exhibition Catalogue, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, 2012-13, p. 96, no. 19, illustration of another example


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is warmer in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills are regarded as the most important and influential series of her early practice. Through their pervasive sense of voyeurism and the uncanny, they identify with second wave feminism in an elegant and complex manner that is typical of Sherman’s rich photographic oeuvre. The present work is a stellar example of the series, with another print from its edition held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Untitled Film Still #59 shows a solitary woman walking away from the camera with a suitcase in one hand, the wind ruffling her skirt, and one hand falling as if she has just finished a nonchalant wave. The sense of recessional travel is strong, and is only emphasised by the heavy linear perspective established by the walls, fence and roof. Meanwhile, our point of view, some six feet back and on the same line of sight, imbues the work with a voyeuristic, almost threatening mood. As Sherman notes “Some of the women 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 their doom)… or have just come from a confrontation (or tryst)” (Cindy Sherman quoted in: ‘The Making of Untitled’, David Frankel, Eds., The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York 2003, p. 9). Other critics have elaborated on this sense of portentous voyeurism. Arthur Danto asserted that “The stills are dense with suspense and danger… the invariant subject is The Girls 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” (Arthur Danto quoted in: Peter Galassi, Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills, New York 1990, p. 13).

To this end, the Untitled Film Stills series also aligns itself with the feminist values that have underpinned Sherman’s body of work. The 'second wave' of the feminist movement gained traction in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the writings and orations of women such as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. The movement celebrated a woman's right to be equal with her male counterpart; to seize control over her own body and make both personal and professional choices regarding her future opportunities. In the present work, Sherman identifies with the movement by boldy asserting herself as her own muse. She is the subject, the lead actress, the director, the photographer and the producer in these stills from imaginary films. In this way, the artist uses the series to catalyse the development of the archetypal female film role: from fearful victimised damsel in distress to an autonomous governor of her own destiny.

In her pose, gaze, costume and composition, Sherman deliberately references notions of the uncanny: the scene is strangely familiar yet ambiguous. Sherman aligns the work with the tropes of European cinema; however, without imitating any specific films, her works are presented as copies with no original. The appropriation of props and tricks from the silver screen, and their use to further the feminist cause is typical of Sherman’s subversive approach. In its arrogation of voyeurism, and in its subtly forged sense of the uncanny, Untitled Film Still #59 challenges perceptions and tackles gender stereotypes in a manner that places it at the very apex of Sherman’s early work.