The Photography Month is the occasion for Artsper to have a look at the careers of the photographers who wrote art history. Focus on the American Cindy Sherman. Is she a photographer, a director, a model, an actress or all these at the same time?
“My photographs aren’t really about any particular story, but about roles.”
Roles… It’s always her, in the center of the image; in the beginning, she is a heroine of Hitchcock films, in film sets from the ‘50s, and then she approaches all the stereotypes of femininity. She is a monstrous creature wearing disturbing prosthetics, showing fake grins, displaying flamboyant colors reminding of science-fiction films, or portraying a woman from the high society. Her work is extremely complex but so coherent, that it becomes disconcerting.
Born in New Jersey in 1954, she studied painting at the State University College de Buffalo, before switching to photography, after seeing images of conceptual art performances. In her first series from the ‘70s, Untitled Films Still, Cindy Sherman imitates the still photography of Hollywood studios from the 1950s. She creates well-polished images, of small formats and in black and white.
She abandons the production of photo series in order to concentrate more on her body and its transformation; it is grotesque, disguised, wearing disturbing prosthetics. These works have exaggerated colors, evoking saturated digital images. Little by little, her photographs delete the limits between media, getting closer from painting, sculpture, performance and even collage. Her work is as multifaceted as her many disguises.
In the mid-90s, she disappears from her photographs and is replaced by mannequins in obscene positions. After 2000, she comes back to her body, her favorite tool, pushing her reflection on identity even forward. The viewer can bring to life the characters she plays and continue their stories. The artist portrays herself in a carnival-like universe that frightens and disturbs the viewer, or in less cold and polished images. Cindy Sherman appears in all these situations but never takes the easy way of the self-portrait. She continues to explore her subjects from the ‘70s and pushes them to the extreme.
She is a real creator, the only character of her artworks, the actress and the director at the same time; she examines the gender roles imposed by today’s society. Her reflection is connected to the destruction and the dilution of the identities, and especially to the role that photography plays in this collapse.
After the year 2000, during the economic boom of the contemporary photography market, she sells her first work at a price higher than 1 million USD at an auction. In May 2011, her photo Untitled #96 is sold for more than 3 million euros by Christie’s, breaking Andreas Gursky’s record ( for the artwork 99 Cents). In 2012, she has a show at the MoMA, as a crowning of her career, and is defined as “the unchallenged cornerstone of postmodern photography”. The 2012/2013 Artprice report places her as the 35th most expensive contemporary artist, with a total of €4,927,261 for 90 artworks sold in 2012/2013, and an auction of €500,695. She is represented by the Gagosian Gallery.