UNTITLED FILM STILL #10
signed, titled '#10,' dated, and editioned '3/10' in pencil on the reverse, framed, 1978
7⅜ by 9½ in. (18.7 by 24.1 cm.)
This photograph, on double-weight paper with a surface sheen, is in generally excellent condition. There is a tiny brown deposit of indeterminate nature in the upper margin at the extreme edge. There is a tiny raised area in the lower center margin, visible in raking light only.
On the reverse, the following are written in pencil: '2[circled]'; 'MP#10'; and 'W532-14/OA.'
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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Metro Pictures, New York, 1987
Sotheby's New York, 7 October 1998, Sale 7194, Lot 466
Peter Schjeldahl and Lisa Phillips, Cindy Sherman (New York, 1987), pl. 9
Arthur Danto, Untitled Film Stills (New York, 1990), pl. 9
Rosalind Krauss, Cindy Sherman 1975-1993 (New York, 1993), p. 49
Zdenek Felix and Martin Schwander, eds., Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work, 1975-1995 (Munich, 1995), pl. 23
Amanda Cruz, Elizabeth A.T. Smith, and Amelia Jones, Cindy Sherman: Retrospective (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art; and Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 1997), pl. 10
Gunilla Knape, ed., The Hasselblad Award 1999: Cindy Sherman (Göteborg, 1999), p. 45
Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2003), p. 27
Eva Respini, Cindy Sherman (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2012), p. 114
Peter Galassi, Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1991), p. 33
Explosive Photography (Nassau County Museum of Art, 2004), p. 34
Each of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills gains weight when considered in the context of the entire series of seventy images (see also Lot 13). Made over the course of three years (1977-1980), these black-and-white photographs are Sherman’s most well-known and celebrated body of work and firmly established her artistic practice of using her own body as the main element in the expanding corpus of portraits she continues to make.
Critic Arthur Danto has deduced that the success of real-world film stills rests on their ability ‘. . . to arouse enough prurient curiosity in the passerby to justify spending money and time in seeing the film to which the still points.’ (Untitled Film Stills, p. 8) Sherman’s chameleon-like images of female archetypes and characters captured in the Film Stills continue to intrigue successive generations because each image does not tell us a story; rather, it sets a stage that we can activate and populate however we desire.
The making of the Film Stills was highly practical and always dependent on the places and backdrops available to Sherman. Until 1979, all of the interiors were shot in her own studio / apartment, which was located at John and South Street in New York City. None of the Film Stills are about Sherman as a specific individual. In no sense was she devising self-portraits; instead, the process of finding costumes and props was all about not being herself. She has compared shooting the Film Stills to the perennial childhood activity of playing dress-up.
Sherman crafted one of her most powerful interior scenes in Untitled Film Still #10. She has noted, ‘Some of the photographs are meant to be a solitary woman and some are meant to allude to another person outside the frame’ (The Complete Untitled Film Stills, p. 8). Wearing a hairstyle reminiscent of a Dorothy Hamill wedge cut, the heroine might be a working girl at the end of a rough day, caught just moments after her groceries have toppled to the floor. Maybe she’s someone’s girlfriend trying to prepare a nice dinner before her guy walks in the door. Perhaps she’s a struggling actress living on scrambled eggs and Campbell’s soup. None of these scenarios is right or wrong, but the essence is the same: a young woman is caught off guard by someone standing just outside the frame. Regardless of the narrative, the viewer is intrigued and unsettled by what will happen next.