Cindy Sherman, National Portrait Gallery, London

Cindy Sherman’s exhibition running at the National Portrait Gallery until 15th September is a must-see. Probably the best exhibition on view at the moment in London. Beyond artifice-composed self-portraits depicting women as imaginary characters from all sorts of backgrounds, settings, social class, and condition lie themes of identity, darkness, humour and fiction.

The stunning show explores the development of the artist’s work from the mid-1970s to today, including rarely exhibited photographs and films created while Sherman was an art student at the State University College at Buffalo from 1972 to 1976. A new work Untitled #602 created in 2019 from a collaboration with Stella McCartney is also on view in the exhibition. 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 mind.

Paul Moorhouse, Curator, Cindy Sherman, said: ‘Cindy Sherman’s art is completely distinctive. By inventing fictitious characters and photographing herself in imaginary situations, she inhabits a world of pure appearance. No other artist interrogates the illusions presented by modern culture in such a penetrating way – or scrutinises so tellingly the façades that people adopt. Probing the elusive connection between appearance and meaning, her work explores contemporary life – and with sharp observation exposes its deceptions.’

Cindy 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 fictive portraits that explore the tension between reality and fiction. Sherman is famous for her use of make-up, costumes, props and prosthetics to create complex and ambiguous photographic images.

Deliberately adopting a cinematic approach, Sherman quotes Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film, Rear Window, as an important influence: ‘Tell me everything you saw and what you think it means’.

Highlights include significant series including History Portraits, Fairy Tales, Fashion, Flappers, Sex Pictures, Masks, Headshots, Clowns and Society Portraits but also Madame Moitessier by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1856 from the collection of the Museum. The inclusion of the only classical painting in the History Portraits’ room makes the show even more quirky and remarkable.

The creative possibilities and avenues of Cindy Sherman’s art are endless and that’s what’s so fascinating with the artist.

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Images: Untitled #574 by Cindy Sherman, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York; Untitled and Madame Moitessier by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1856. The National Gallery, London. Bought, 1936. © The National Gallery, London.