Cindy Sherman’s first UK retrospective unveiled in London 

Cindy Sherman

‘Untitled #602’ by Cindy Sherman, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

LONDON – Cindy Sherman’s groundbreaking series, Untitled Film Stills, 1977-80, has gone on public display for the first time in the UK in a major new retrospective of the artist’s work at the National Portrait Gallery, London. Opening on Thursday, June 27, the exhibition explores the development of the artist’s work from the mid-1970s to the present day.

Included are rarely exhibited photographs and films created while Sherman was an art student at the State University College at Buffalo from 1972 to 1976, and a new work Untitled #602 created in 2019 from a collaboration with Stella McCartney. The exhibition features over 190 works from international public and private collections, as well as a recreation of Sherman’s studio in New York, providing an unprecedented insight into the artist’s working processes.

Widely regarded as one of the world’s leading contemporary artists, Cindy Sherman, (b. 1954), first gained widespread critical recognition for Untitled Film Stills, the series that she commenced shortly after moving to New York in 1977. Comprising 70 images, the work was the artist’s first major artistic statement and defined her approach. With Sherman herself as the model wearing a range of costumes and hairstyles, her black and white images captured the look of 1950s and ’60s Hollywood, film noir, B movies and European art-house films. Building on that layer of artifice, the fictional situations she created were photographed in a way that recalls the conventions of yesterday’s cinema. As a result, each photograph depicts its subject, namely the artist, refracted through a layer of artifice – a veneer of representation.

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman, ‘Untitled Film Still #21,’ 1978, gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 inches, 20.3 x 25.4 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

The exhibition includes all five of Sherman’s Cover Girl series, completed shortly after she graduated from art school, displayed together for the first time since November 1976 when they were exhibited on the inside of the top deck of a bus. Other key works are shown from the artist’s most important series including Rear Screen Projections, Centerfolds, History Portraits, Fairy Tales, Fashion, Flappers, Sex Pictures, Masks, Headshots, Clowns and Society Portraits. The exhibition also features a digital version of A CindyBook, a private album of family photographs that Sherman began compiling when she was around 8 or 9 years old, which has never been seen before, revealing an early fascination with her own changing appearance.

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman with her work ‘Untitled (Murder Mystery People), 1976/2000,’ on display in Cindy Sherman, National Portrait Gallery London. Photograph by Alastair Fyfe Photography

Sherman focuses on the artist’s manipulation of her own appearance and her deployment of material derived from a range of cultural sources in order to create imaginary portraits that explore the tension between façade and identity. Sherman is famous for her use of makeup, costumes, props and prosthetics to create complex and ambiguous photographic images. Taking a quotation from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film, Rear Window, which Sherman has cited as an important influence: “Tell me everything you saw and what you think it means” as its central theme, the exhibition will examine in detail Sherman’s rich and varied visual language, which draws on cinema, television, advertising and fashion.

The exhibition, which runs through Sept. 15, is accompanied by a fully illustrated publication reproducing all the works in the exhibition and will be the definitive guide to Sherman’s career to date.