Selfies as Art Form: Cindy Sherman Exhibit at Broad

Cindy Sherman


Long before Kim Kardashian was posting pics of her booty, one artist was taking cinematic self-portraits of beauty. For 40 years, photographer Cindy Sherman has made several amazing series of creative selfies into an art form as seen in The Broad exhibit.

The show, “Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life” is the first major museum display of the artist’s work in Los Angeles in nearly 20 years. The exhibit, a comprehensive survey of her selfies and other work, is also The Broad’s first special exhibition since it debuted last year in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Opening today, June 11, the show fills the museum’s first-floor galleries with approximately 120 pieces largely out of The Broad’s extensive collection.

The 62-year-old artist named her Broad show “The Imitation of Life,” after a 1959 melodrama. It reflects the New Jersey-born photographer’s style, which largely features Sherman in media-influenced female stereotypes, challenging conventions on beauty and art that are shown in mass culture.

“’Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life’ offers a fresh curatorial take on her work … focusing on Sherman’s unique examination of filmic stereotypes and of celebrity, starting with the earliest film stills to works she created just last year,” according to Joanne Heyler, founding director of The Broad. She noted how Sherman has played a heavy role in her art – serving as director, actor, writer, make-up artist, hairstylist, wardrobe consultant, and, of course, photographer – and has been a favorite of Eli Broad, and his wife Edy, since they first saw her work.

The couple had been collecting art for about a decade when they went to a gallery in New York and saw Sherman’s work in 1982. He said, “We were blown away – So we bought 20 works on the spot! Broad added, “We were not photography collectors, but we saw something there that went well beyond photography.” (There are now approximately 125 Cindy Sherman photographs in the Broad collection, the largest holding of her work in the world.) They hope people who visit the L.A. exhibit will have a similar experience to theirs, almost 35 years ago, that they are seeing “something spectacular and thought-provoking.”

The show opens with some of Sherman’s widely known film still works, inspired by cinema of the 1950s and 1960s. It features several pieces from other classic series of hers that play off of media images and even old masters paintings; and concludes with newer work never before exhibited in the area. Nearly all of the pieces in the Broad exhibit show Sherman’s uncanny eye that made her selfies an art form.

The exhibition includes pieces from:

  • Her 1976 series, “Murder Mystery,” a series of photo cutouts depicting a suspenseful crime story features 13 characters played by the artist.
  • Her “film stills” from 1977-1980 that show her in cliché female roles, assorted personalities and circumstances typical in Hollywood and European art house films.
  • The history portraits from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s recreate old masters with the artist donning cheap costumes and obvious prostheses.
  • Reflecting her own obvious signs of aging, the society photo series depicts notably older women in opulent settings. Set in large gilded frames, the works look like oil paintings, with the women in heavy makeup to show a failed attempt to retain their youth.
  • There are also images from her Hollywood/Hamptons, clowns and other series this century, including the latest showing her in classic images of silent film stars.Cindy Sherman

Museums often have special exhibits to draw attention and crowds. That is not needed for The Broad. However, patience and planning are required.

The three-story facility was expected to draw 300,000 a year, but has amassed 540,000 visitors in the first nine months. According to Heyler, they operate a full capacity at all times. So, those wanting to see or take selfies in front of the new Cindy Sherman exhibit’s art forms should get tickets quickly (note, there is a $12 for adult admission to the show, but tickets to The Broad’s other galleries are free.). This show will be there through Oct. 2, 2016.

Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss

Exhibit preview press conference and visit
The Broad
Artnet: Cindy Sherman
New York Times: Cindy Sherman Takes On Aging (Her Own)
New York Times: Cindy Sherman’s Divas, Poised for a Final Close-Up

Photos of selections from Cindy Sherman’s film stills and society photos by Dyanne Weiss

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.