Fine Art Photography Series
Cindy Sherman

Biography of Postmodernist Art Photographer.

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Cindy Sherman (b.1954)


Cindy Sherman's Photography
Solo Exhibitions
Recognition and Awards
Most Expensive Photographs by Cindy Sherman
Other Famous 20th Century Art Photographers

See also: the History of Photography (c.1800-1900).

Sherman'sfeminist art examines
gender-based stereotypes.

One of the most successful
postmodernist artists of the
21st century.


For a brief explanation of technical
and historical terms, please see:
Art Photography Glossary.

Cindy Sherman's Photography

One of the greatest photographers of the late 20th century, the American camera artist Cindy Sherman is famous for her focus on the nature of reality, and for raising challenging questions concerning the role of women in society, the issue of media and culture from a feminist perspective, as well as the creation and meaning of art. Sherman creates series, usually photographing herself in a variety of costumes, make-up and hair-styles. These narrative compositions - exemplified by her Untitled Film Stills series (1977-80), showing herself playing stereotypical roles of B-film actresses - may not be 'real', yet they show us what exists and what makes a claim to control us: sexuality, beauty, power, and violence, which serve both as media strategies for suppressing the real while promoting a fake alternative. Other important photographic series by Sherman include: Centrefolds (1981-4) (she plays glossy magazine-inspired roles); History Portraits (1989-91) (she plays roles from famous oil paintings); Sex Pictures (1992-2000) (dolls and prosthetic limbs in explicit poses). Now seen as one of the best-known exponents of lens-based postmodernist art, in 2011, Cindy Sherman's work Untitled #96 (1981) was auctioned for a staggering $3,890,500 making it one of the most expensive photographs ever sold. (Note: For an article on the aesthetics and artistic nature of lens-based art, please see: Is Photography Art?)

Note: For other American women artists who explore female stereotypes with a critical perspective, see: Judy Chicago (b.1939) and Barbara Kruger (b.1945).


Born Cynthia Morris Sherman. Studies at State University in Buffalo (New York). Experiences the contemporary art exhibited at the famous Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and the Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts, and Artpark, in nearby Lewiston. 1976, obtains B.A. 1977, moves to New York City. Creates first narrative self-stagings while studying. Breakthrough at the end of the 1970s with Untitled Film Stills, a black-and-white photo series inspired by Surrealism, in which she photographs herself in roles reflecting movies of the 1950s. Features female stereotypes and the male gaze directed at women (as sex symbol, victim, and so on). Then comes the following (colour) series. 1980, Real Screen Projections series; 1981, Centerfolds (ironic paraphrasing of Playboy magazine centerfolds); 1982, Pink Robes and colour Tests; 1983, Fashion; 1985-1989, Disasters and Fairy Tales; 1988-1990, History Portraits series, featuring mock-ups of paintings by Jean Fouquet, Raphael, Caravaggio, and others; 1991, Civil War; 1992, Sex Pictures, involving use of medical puppets. The latter is Sherman's response to the 1989 NEA funding scandal involving the planned exhibition of works by Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-89) at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the "Made in Heaven" series by Jeff Koons (b.1955). 2003-4, the Clowns cycle, involves the use of digital photography to create garish montages; 2008, Untitled Society Portraits.

For another postmodernist portrait photographer, who specializes in celebrity portraits, see: Annie Leibovitz (b.1949).

Selected Solo Exhibitions

1980 New York (Metro Pictures - 1981, 82, 83, 85, 87, 89, 90, 92)
1982 Amsterdam (Stedelijk Museum)
1984 Tokyo (Seibu Gallery of Contemporary Art)
1987 New York (Whitney Museum of American Art)
1991 Basel (Kunsthalle)
1993 Paris (Pompidou Centre)
1995 Hamburg (Deichtorhallen)
1996 Rotterdam (Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen)
1998 Cologne [Museum Ludwig)
2001 New York (Museum of Modern Art) group show
2003 London (Serpentine Gallery)
2003 Edinburgh (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art)
2004 Hannover (kestnergesellschaft)
2005 St. Louis (Contemporary Art Museum)
2006 Paris (Jeu de Paume/Site Concorde)
2007 Travelling to Humblebaek, Berlin
2009 New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art) group show
2012 New York (Museum of Modern Art, New York)
2012 Travelling to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Walker Art Center

Recognition and Awards

Sherman has received many awards for her photography, including: the Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (1993); Wolfgang Hahn Prize (1997); Hasselblad Award (1999) for her complete works; American Academy of Arts and Sciences Award (2003); Guild Hall Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award for Visual Arts (2005); Jewish Museum’s Man Ray Award (2009); Honorary Membership of the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2010); the Roswitha Haftmann Prize (2012).

Most Expensive Photographs by Cindy Sherman

Since participating in documenta 7, in 1982, Sherman has featured among the top contemporary artists in the medium of photography. In 1995, for instance, the Museum of Modern Art New York, paid a reported $1 million for all 69 b/w photographs in Sherman's Untitled Film Stills series.

In November 2010, her work Untitled #153 (1985) was auctioned at Phillips de Pury & Co in New York for $2,700,000. Six months later, in May 2011, her picture Untitled #96 (1981) was auctioned at Christie's New York for $3,890,500 making it the most expensive ever photograph by Sherman. (For more about high priced art, see: Most Expensive Paintings: Top 10.)


Photographic works by Cindy Sherman are held in the public collections of some of the world's best art museums, including: the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, all in New York; the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Australian National Gallery, Canberra; the Tate Gallery, London; the Pompidou Centre, Paris; the Reina Sofia, Madrid; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.

Photographs by Cindy Sherman are regularly shown in some of the best galleries of contemporary art across America.



Other Famous 20th Century Photographers

In addition to the great 19th-Century Photographers, as well as those mentioned above, here is a short list of some of the best known camera artists of the 20th and 21st century.

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) Dadaist Photomontages
Paul Strand (1890-1976) Exponent of straight photography
John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfeld) (1891-1968) Dada photomontages
Walker Evans (1903-75) Documentary pictures
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) Street photography, surrealism
Robert Capa (1913-54) War photographer
Irving Penn (1917-2009) Fashion, ethnographical images
Richard Avedon (1923-2004) Fashion photography
Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007) (b.1934) Photos of Industrial buildings
Jeff Wall (b.1946) Staged photography
Nan Goldin (b.1953) Feminist camera art
Andreas Gursky (b.1955) Architecture, landscapes

• For more about Surrealist photography, see: Homepage.
• For other postmodernist camera artists, see: Video Art.

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