Lot 8
  • 8

CINDY SHERMAN | Untitled Film Still #21A, City Girl Close-Up

450,000 - 650,000 GBP
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  • Cindy Sherman
  • Untitled Film Still #21A, City Girl Close-Up
  • signed and dated 1978
  • gelatin silver print
  • image: 71.1 by 88.9 cm. 28 by 35 in.
  • sheet: 80 by 104.1 cm. 31 1/2 by 41 in.
  • Executed in 1978, this work is number 3 from an edition of 3.


The Artist
Metro Pictures, New York
Willard Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York
Karen Amiel, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998


Amsterdam, The Stedelijk Museum, Cindy Sherman, December 1982, n.p., no. 17, illustrated (edition no. unknown) New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cindy Sherman, July - October 1987, n.p., no. 17, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

Basel, Kunsthalle Basel; Munich, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst; London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Cindy Sherman, March - September 1991, p. 19, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum, Directions: Cindy Sherman: Film Stills, March - June 1995, n.p., no. 21, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

Hamburg, Deichtorhallen; Malmö, Kunsthall; Luzerne, Kustmuseum, Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work 1975-1995, May 1995 - February 1996, p. 32, no. 4, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

Shiga, Museum of Modern Art; Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art; Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Cindy Sherman, July - December 1996, pp. 69 and 180, no. 18, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, The Complete Untitled Film Stills: Cindy Sherman, June - September 1997, p. 16 (text); and p. 35, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Prague, Galerie Rudolfinum; London, Barbican Art Gallery; Bordeaux, CAPC, Musée d'art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Cindy Sherman: Retrospective, November 1997 - January 2000, p. 68, no. 22, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-2000, Part II, September 1999 - February 2000 (edition no. unknown) 

Paris, Jeu de Paume; Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Cindy Sherman, May 2006 - September 2007, n.p. and p. 242, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol Museum, Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years, September 2012 - April 2013, p. 109, no. 143 (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

New York, The Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art, Cindy Sherman, February - June 2013, p. 40 (text) and p. 103, no. 35, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

Basel, Kunstmuseum Basel, Von Bildern. Strategien der Aneignung, August 2015 - January 2016, n.p. (text) (edition no. unknown)

London, Saatchi Gallery, From Selfie to Self-Expression, March - May 2017 (edition no. unknown)


Peter Schjeldahl and Michael Danoff, Cindy Sherman, New York 1984, n.p. and back cover, no. 17, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Arthur C. Danto, Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills, Munich 1990, n.p., no. 16, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Rosalind Krauss and Norman Bryson, Cindy Sherman: 1975-1993, New York 1993, pp. 30-31, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Exh. Cat., Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen; Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía; Bilbao, Sala de Exposiciones Rekalde; Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Cindy Sherman, March 1996 - March 1997, p. 10, no. 14, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Catherine Morris, The Essential: Cindy Sherman, New York 1999, p. 43, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

Shelley Rice, Ed., Inverted Odysseys: Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, Cindy Sherman, Cambridge 1999, p. 7, no. 1.3, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Gunilla Knape, Ed., Cindy Sherman: The Hasselblad Award 1999, Göteborg 2000, p. 41, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

Harriet Schoenholz Bee and Cassandra Heliczer, Eds., MoMA Highlights: 350 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York 2004, p. 295, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Johanna Burton, Cindy Sherman, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London 2006, p. 102, no. 28, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

Gabriele Schor, ‘Cindy's Original Scene: Doll Clothes. Sherman’s Early Film’, Parkett, Zurich 2006, No. 78, p. 22, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

Exh. Cat., Greenwich, Bruce Museum, Cindy Sherman: Works from Friends of the Bruce Museum, January - April 2011, p. 33, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Daniel Birnbaum, Cornelia H. Bulter and Suzanne Cotter, Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks, London 2011, p. 30, illustrated (edition no. unknown, edition of 10)

Will Gompertz, What Are You Looking At? 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye, London 2012, p. 353, no. 31, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Paul Moorhouse, Cindy Sherman, London 2014, pp. 29 and 37, no. 32, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Gabrielle Selz, Unstill Life: A Daughter's Memoir of Art and Love in the Age of Abstraction, New York 2014, p. 274, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Douglas Crimp, Before Pictures, Chicago 2016, pp. 254 and 256 (text); and p. 257, illustrated (edition no. unknown)

Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World, New York 2016, pp. 52-53, illustrated (edition no. unknown)


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly warmer in the original. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"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

In 1977 Cindy Sherman started work on a project that would become one of the most ground-breaking and iconic photographic series of the postmodern era: the Untitled Film Stills. From the sequence of seventy images that comprise the corpus, the present work is perhaps the most widely recognised and reproduced example from the series. Depicting a young and alert career girl – perhaps on her first day in the big city – Untitled Film Still #21 utterly epitomises Sherman’s iconic portfolio of black and white images. Building on stereotypical modes of femininity – roles that became cemented in the collective consciousness of the postwar generation in America through Hollywood films and consumer culture – Sherman cast herself in the role of protagonist for a litany of fictional fictions: pseudo promotional stills for non-existent film productions. In doing this, Sherman importantly exposed ingrained gendered stereotypes and the culturally accepted subjugatory role of women. In each photograph Sherman appears in a different guise, ranging from the ingénue, the sex kitten, the hardened film-noir heroine to the sophisticate, the lonely housewife, or, as in the present work, the city girl. With a full suite of Untitled Film Stills housed in The Museum of Modern Art and having been fully canonised by a slew of art historians since their conception, this groundbreaking series is one of the most important and consequential bodies of work of the late Twentieth Century. Conceived over a period of three years, this encyclopaedic series would come to define Sherman’s idiosyncratic artistic vocabulary and catalyse her career as one of the leading artists of the influential Pictures Generation. Similar to fellow Pictures artists Richard Prince (who was her boyfriend around that time) and Robert Longo (whom she met at college), Sherman was deeply influenced by commercial image culture and the diffusion of stereotypes via popular imagery. While Prince focused on re-photographing iconic images taken from the advertising world and Longo aimed to recreate a particular sense of motion and energy in his drawings, Sherman cast herself as the star in her own cinematic mise-en-scène.

Created in the classic format, scale, and quality that would mimic the often staged ‘stills’ used to promote films, Sherman conceived the first six pictures as a group in which she impersonated a single actress in various roles. This experiment soon expanded into a detailed survey of various different characters and scenes, all loosely inspired by film imagery. Rather than assuming overdramatic poses, however, Sherman aimed to create conceptually demanding images that would stir the viewer’s imagination and fantasies. As the artist has explained: “What I didn’t want were pictures showing strong emotions, which was rare to see; in film stills there’s a lot of overacting because they’re trying to sell the movie” (Cindy Sherman cited in: David Frankel, Ed., Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York 2003, p. 8). As perfectly illustrated in the present work, the scene is filled with tension. Although her face is fully visible, Sherman does not look into the camera. Negating our gaze while opening up a radical, thrilling complicity, the present work situates the viewer as both voyeur and protagonist – the work’s simultaneous consumer and subject.

Acting as a cultural mirror to the idealisation and fetishizing of stereotypical female roles in society – roles taken for granted for the best part of the Twentieth Century – these works occupy an ambiguous terrain between appropriation and imagination, fiction and reality. By employing the same seductive mechanisms as the film industry, Sherman positions the viewer as both critical observer and complicit actor in her beautifully open-ended fragmentary cinematic dramas.