NEW YORK, NY.-
On November 12, Christies
evening sale of Post-War and Contemporary art will offer twenty one examples from Cindy Shermans seminal Untitled Film Still series with a pre-sale estimate of $6-9 million. Widely regarded as one of the most influential and original bodies of work to emerge from the Contemporary art scene, Cindy Shermans Untitled Film Stills transcend the boundaries of both conceptual art and photographyproviding an entirely new avenue of investigation for artists who have since tried to emulate her. So influential have her Untitled Film Stills been that in 1995 The Museum of Modern Art in New York purchased the entire series from the artist in order to preserve the work in its entirety. The distinctive group being offered at Christies was carefully selected and acquired by the renowned curator and collector Ydessa Hendeles.
Cindy Sherman's black and white images cast her in a variety of female roles that are both witty and provocative, examining, as they do, both the nature of modern photography and the question of identity in the modern media age. Sherman plays and stages each role personally, with an acute eye for costume; her characters are inspired by the movies she watched growing up in her youth, each figure carefully cast to reflect the vital nerve that movies touch in our culture as a vehicle for influencing and reflecting modern society.
Sherman had a passion for playing dress-up ever since she was a young girl. Instead of outgrowing that passion she transformed it into a potent creative force. In the Untitled Film Stills we see her acting out myriad roles with the aid of costumes, make-up and settings that coalesce into intriguing scenarios. Her choice of costumes, poses and backgrounds knowingly point to a gamut of filmic influences, from the French New Wave, Italian Neorealism and Hitchcock, to classic Hollywood and B-films from the 1940s to the 1960s. Fascinated by those decades that were just out of reach, she enjoyed trolling thrift shops for costumes while at the same time studying film and art while in college in Buffalo, New York. By leaving the exact nature of character unstipulated, Sherman leaves enough room in her composition for the viewer to construct their own narrative for these women. This ambiguity is at the very heart of the success of these images.
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 performancethe fictionof 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 would undertake provocative and sustained explorations of contemporary female identity in series after series of eloquent photographic masterpiecesworks that stand as ostensible cultural parodies, but which function, in fact, as chilling and trenchant acts of social critique.