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b. 1954, USA

Cindy Sherman Biography

Although in Cindy Sherman's photographs she acts as her own model, stylist, hairdresser and photographer, the American artist's works are hardly self-portraits. Sherman adopts different identities each time, fashioning herself as various characters and archetypes. Through the staged artifice of her photographs, Sherman conveys femaleness and identity as unfixed fabrications determined by social and cultural norms.

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After graduating from The State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976, Sherman quickly attracted attention with her 'Untitled Film Stills' (1977–1980). Mimicking the aesthetics of 1950s and 1960s Hollywood films, B-movies and European arthouse films, the 69 black-and-white photographs are fictitious stills from movies that never existed. In the images, Sherman 'plays' a stereotypical female character such as a housewife in Untitled Film Still #35 (1979) or a young girl just arrived in the big city in Untitled Film Still #21 (1978).

Sherman's interest in the visual codes of femaleness—with attention to fashion, makeup, demeanour and stereotypes—continued through 'Centerfolds', a series of 12 horizontal prints commissioned by Artforum in 1981. In reference to the centrefolds in men's erotic magazines and a pervasive history of consuming the female body through images, the artist photographed herself in passive positions, either lying or kneeling. The images were interpreted by some critics as showing women in vulnerable situations, which led Artforum to reject them. Sherman directly followed the series with her four 'Pink Robes' photographs, for which she posed as a woman covering her body with a pink robe and gazing challengingly at the camera, refusing objectification.

Sherman's consideration of the relationship between identity and mass media has associated her with the Pictures Generation, a group of young American artists from the 1970s and 1980s that includes Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Laurie Simmons and Richard Prince. Questioning notions of authorship, the Pictures Generation artists were inspired by cultural critics and French philosophers like Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes, the last of whom famously declared 'The Death of the Author' in his 1967 manifesto. Barthes denied the possibility of original authorship, arguing that any creative output is, in fact, a derivative of others' work. Sherman—acting as both the author and subject throughout her practice—similarly does not see her artworks as shots taken of her, but instead as reproductions of ideas and archetypes.

Reacting to a mounting market demand for her photographs, from the mid-1980s some of Sherman's photographic series took a darker turn, with the artist increasingly disguising herself to the point of being unrecognisable in them. The images in 'Fairy Tales' (1985) and 'Disasters' (1986–1989), for instance, are inhabited by gory remnants of a violent crime or the aftermath of unknown disasters featuring body parts, vomit and blood. Part of the series, Untitled #169 (1987), features a close-up of a man's head lying on the ground, surrounded by snow and shattered glass. The creature, though completely unrecognisable, is Sherman, transformed with prosthetics and wigs. Conversely, in 'Sex Pictures'—a later series, from 1992—the artist is physically absent from the photographs and instead populates the images with anatomical mannequins arranged into vulgar and disturbing sexual positions.

Made around the same time as 'Disasters' and 'Sex Pictures', the series 'History Portraits' (1988–1990) saw Sherman borrowing from European portraiture traditions to cast solemn-looking figures in absurdly artificial settings. Untitled #228 (1990) is a full-length portrait of Sherman dressed as Judith—a biblical figure who beheaded the Assyrian general Holofernes to save her people, and a popular subject in Renaissance and Baroque paintings. While Sherman composed the portrait with references to Western art historical conventions—such as the use of textiles to adorn the background—she also willingly disclosed the artificiality of the scene: Holofernes' head, upon closer inspection, is more like a Halloween mask than a real head; the fabrics, though enhanced through the camera, are cheap buys from thrift stores. In another image, Untitled #216 (1989), the artist's awkwardly attached prosthetic breast reveals the portrait as a staged scene. Through her undisguised use of props and prosthetics, Sherman exposes the artificiality of identity construction; the ideas of identity, just like portraits, are always mediated.

In more recent years, Sherman has confronted the obsession with youth in contemporary culture. 'Society Portraits' (2008) shows her as various women of wealth whose heavy make-up and surgical enhancement hint at attempts to conceal and slow down the process of ageing. In another series from 2016, Sherman portrays ageing movie stars styled as they had been in their youth, criticising the impossible demands on women to maintain their youthful appearances.

Exhibiting since the 1970s, Sherman has recently held solo and group exhibitions at Sprüth Magers, London (2018); The Broad, Los Angeles (2016); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2015); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015); National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (2013); Tate Modern, London (2012); and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2012) among others. In 2012 The Museum of Modern Art, New York, organised a major retrospective of her work that travelled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center and Dallas Museum of Art. Sherman's photographs have been included in numerous international exhibitions, notably the Whitney Biennial (1995, 1993, 1991, 1985, 1983); the Biennale of Sydney (1990, 1984); and documenta 7 (1982). In 2013 she co-curated an exhibition for the 55th Venice Biennale.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018

Exhibition view: Cindy Sherman, Sprüth Magers, Berlin (20 November 2020–13 February 2021). © Cindy Sherman. Courtesy Sprüth Magers and Metro Pictures, New York. Photo: Ingo Kniest.

Cindy Sherman Featured Artworks

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Untitled Film Still #33 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled Film Still #33, 1979Gelatin silver print
73.3 x 95.3 cm
Metro Pictures Contact Gallery
Untitled by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled, 1979Chromogenic print
18 x 23 inches
Bruce Silverstein Contact Gallery
Untitled #603 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #603, 2019Dye sublimation metal print
215.3 x 195.6 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Untitled, ('Madonna') by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled, ('Madonna'), 1975Silver gelatin print, printed 1997
7 x 5 inches
Huxley-Parlour Contact Gallery
Murder Mystery by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanMurder Mystery, 19763 gelatin silver print cut-outs mounted on board
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Untitled (Madonna) by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled (Madonna), 1975–1997Gelatin silver print
17.6 x 12.5 cm
Ingleby Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled #572 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #572, 2016Dye sublimation metal print
132.1 x 116.8 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Untitled #559 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #559, 2015Three dye sublimation metal prints
120.7 x 266.4 x 5.1 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire

Cindy Sherman Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Cindy Sherman, Cindy Sherman at Sprüth Magers, Berlin
Open Now
20 November 2020–13 February 2021 Cindy Sherman Sprüth MagersBerlin
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Artists for New York at Hauser & Wirth, 22nd Street, New York
1–22 October 2020 Group Exhibition Artists for New York Hauser & Wirth22nd Street, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Cindy Sherman, Cindy Sherman at Metro Pictures, New York
26 September–31 October 2020 Cindy Sherman Metro PicturesNew York

Cindy Sherman Represented By

Metro Pictures contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Metro Pictures New York
Sprüth Magers contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany Sprüth Magers Berlin, London, Los Angeles

Cindy Sherman In Ocula Magazine

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Art021: Six Artwork Highlights Ocula Insight Art021: Six Artwork Highlights By Ocula Advisory, Shanghai

The Ocula Advisory team select six highlights from Art021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair's 8th edition, running from 12 to 15 November 2020.

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Performa Unearths the Telethon for 2020 Gala Ocula News Performa Unearths the Telethon for 2020 Gala New York, 10 November 2020

The homage to obsolete TV formats will also allow viewers to shop Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger from their sofas.

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Alain Servais: 'I'm very careful about not offending anyone' Ocula Conversation Alain Servais: 'I'm very careful about not offending anyone' By Nadine Khalil, Brussels

Leaning towards art that embodies what he describes as 'otherness', Alain Servais discusses the formation of his collection over the last two decades.

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Shanghai Art Exhibitions to See: The Lowdown Ocula Feature Shanghai Art Exhibitions to See: The Lowdown By Sam Gaskin

There is no official Shanghai Art Week, but the term has nevertheless entered the lexicon of the city's contemporary art community. It's especially apt this year, with the firmly established West Bund Art Fair (8–11 November 2018) and Art021 (9–11 November 2018) taking place the same week that the 12th Shanghai Biennale opens at the Power Station...

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Cindy Sherman In Related Press

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‘I’m trying to erase myself’ – an interview with Cindy Sherman Related Press ‘I’m trying to erase myself’ – an interview with Cindy Sherman 27 June 2019, Apollo

There is something profoundly uncanny about seeing Cindy Sherman in person for the first time. When she greets me at the door of her SoHo studio one afternoon in April, casually dressed and wearing no obvious make-up, I recognise her features, but not, exactly, her face. For more than 40 years, Sherman has appeared in nearly all of her work, but...

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Preview Art Basel 2019 Related Press Preview Art Basel 2019 7 June 2019, ARTnews

Art Basel 2019 opens to the public on Thursday, June 13, with two preview days, on June 11 and 12. Some 290 galleries from 34 countries will show work at the Swiss fair, which runs through June 16.

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Cindy Sherman Takes Selfies (as Only She Could) on Instagram Related Press Cindy Sherman Takes Selfies (as Only She Could) on Instagram 10 August 2017, The New York Times

Media hacks have Twitter, excitable teenagers have Snapchat and middle managers have LinkedIn, but in the art world, the social network of choice remains Instagram, where all the world's beauty is gridded into squares. That photo-sharing app is the de facto broadcast medium for new exhibitions, and it's an agora, too, for artists and curators in...

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Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers on Activism, Feminism, and The Future Related Press Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers on Activism, Feminism, and The Future 25 May 2017, Whitewall

Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are matriarchs of contemporary art. Their gallery currently has spaces in London, Berlin, and Los Angeles, but it began in the later 1990s when Sprüth mentored Magers and invited her to collaborate on a shared program in Cologne featuring artists Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Sylvie Fleury, and...

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