Art Vile: Cindy Sherman Is Back

"enforcing the sheer disposability of the rich against their vain attempts to pitch themselves somewhere above mortality: that impossible Shelleyian dream to be on a par with nature"

Cindy Sherman’s latest work is finally coming to London and will be on show from 16 April to 27 May at Sprüth Magers.

A grotesque obsession with money is evidently at the heart of these pieces that seem to follow on from Sherman’s 2002 collection HAMPTON HOLLYWOOD TYPES, satirising the obliviousness of the wealthy classes to their tastelessness, and documenting the fatigue of these delusional women who have achieved some sort of wealth-goal fantasy, just in time for old age and death.

Sherman’s self portraits have come a long way since her Untitled Film Stills of the 1970s. Her close artistic engagement with screen presence, celebrity and Hollywood has fascinated critics for decades. The ultimate identity-crisis case study, Sherman was commissioned throughout the 1980s to create fashion photography, including a series that Diane Benson patroned for Interview (The then leading Pop culture Bible established by Warhol in 1969).

It is interesting to see how Cindy Sherman has matured throughout her career too. Of course, since she uses herself as the model of her photographs, a degree of ageing is inevitable, yet this is so highly accentuated and deformed by Sherman. In her latest works we are invited to bask in the horrifying glory of high-status plastic-surgery nightmares. Women who, clad in pearls and dresses of the finest fabrics, have sacrificed their souls for the acquisition of what appeared in their youth to be the American dream.

Through the portraits of these women Cindy Sherman offers us dark insight into marital institution, material possession, power and the Baby Jane-like attempts to uphold youth and beauty.

Still, her trademark placid humour remains, as one woman clutches a tacky ornate fan and another strokes her purely ornamental puppy. I was reminded of her HISTORY PORTRAITS series of the 1990s, where we find Carravaggio's masterpieces recreated with popped-out nipples and blindingly fake plastic grapes.

What I love most about these recent offerings is the haunting activity of the photos’ backgrounds. Untitled #465 (above) depicts a partially blurred stately set of stairs, hinting at the character’s grandeur and nurtured sophistication. We cannot help but think of who she is, where she came from and what her bank account boasts.

In Untitled #469 (below) Cindy Sherman hovers ghost-like above a forest backdrop, no doubt mocking the style of cliché commissioned portraits, but also enforcing the sheer disposability of the rich against their vain attempts to pitch themselves somewhere above mortality: that impossible Shelleyian dream to be on a par with nature.

As always, Sherman intelligently re-invents herself through colour photography to establish an inconceivably brilliant liminal space. A space that sends a cold chill down the spine while still managing to interest and entertain. A wildly funny fiction that draws harrowingly close to truth, with this new exhibition Cindy Sherman maintains her reputation as one of the world’s greatest living artists.

Words: Jack Cullen


  1. Great post! You've sold the London exhibition to me. Sadly, it ends too early.

  2. Thanks Elli. Well it's currently in Berlin, so i'm sure after London it will move somewhere else. A lot of the images can be seen online too.

    JC x

  3. The Sunday Times have done a piece on the upcoming exhibition. Three weeks after I wrote about on Jack of Hearts, naaturally.

    Sadly Waldemar Januszczak asked Sherman questions that she had either already answered in ArtReview, or that she's been asked incessantly for twenty years! But the feature is still interesting and well worth a look...