Discover the Thousand Lives of Cindy Sherman at the Louis-Vuitton Foundation


Born with the pop culture American, the New York artist Cindy Sherman has been developing since the end of the 1970s a photographic work devoted to female stereotypes, staging herself, equipped with accessories. At the Vuitton Foundation, she thus offers her thousand faces to visitors invited to enter fully into her film with still images.

The first rooms are devoted to series inspired by cinema icons, which have brought it international recognition. Untitled Film Stills 1977-1980 uses the codes of still photography: each black and white shot is an imaginary reconstruction inspired by post-war cinema, Italian neorealism, the New Wave or Hollywood classics. Cindy Sherman turns into a starlet, femme fatale, adventurer …

Discover the thousand lives of Cindy Sherman at the Fondation Louis-Vuitton

A solitary artist, she takes on all the roles: photographer, model, hairdresser, makeup artist, costume designer and set designer. Light, framing and decor are carefully studied and if no particular film is cited, there is an immediate recognition effect: one cannot help thinking of Anna Magnani, Brigitte Bardot or Kim Novak (Cold sweat), archetype of the Hitchcockian heroine that we find in the following series, Rear Screen Projections.

Everyone can make their own movie

Inspired by the transparency device dear to the British filmmaker, Cindy Sherman is staged here on a slide background, in a horizontal format reminiscent of that of cinemascope in technicolor. The deliberate awkwardness of the special effects produces a tenfold cinematographic effect, allowing everyone to make their own film.

Resuming his dialogue with the cinema forty years later, Flappers (Boyish,2016-2018) brings together immense portraits of aging stars of the cinema of the interwar period, and under the shimmer of the fabrics and the sophistication of the makeup, melancholy exudes. With this series produced at the age of 60, the autobiographical question, hitherto always kept at bay in Cindy Sherman’s work, comes to the fore.

Discover the thousand lives of Cindy Sherman at the Fondation Louis-Vuitton

If the artist takes the stage in all her photos, she is never the subject: “I feel anonymous in my work. When I look at the pictures, I never see myself; they are not self-portraits. And sometimes I disappear. “ This voluntary erasure is reinforced by the absence of titles. The image is nameless, no individuality is associated with it, all freedom is left to the spectator to construct his own story. Only a number inscribes it in a succession and an addition of fictional femininity.

Hybrid creatures

The scenography plays on this complexity, mirrors amplify the connections between the series by integrating the visitor into the experience: his own image mingles with those of others who collide with the works in a kaleidoscope of colors, blurring the boundaries a little more. between illusion and reality.

This reality becomes even more elusive in the darker series of the decade 1985-1995. The artist introduces in his work the use of prostheses, mannequins and masks, until the dissolution of his own image. Half-human, half-animal or hermaphrodite hybrid creatures arise between nightmare and grotesque. The humor of the previous series (and following: will come in 2008 Society Portraits, a hilarious series about American social women) gives way to dread and trash provocation, in these years marked by AIDS and the return of Puritanism in the America of Reagan and Bush.

Questioning the concept of masculinity

If, from her first works and then in the series on historical portraits or clowns, Cindy Sherman has already embodied male characters, Men 2019-2020, which closes the exhibition, is the first series exclusively devoted to questioning the notion of masculinity, the artist seeking to reveal its vulnerability. Playing on ambiguity, she embodies a phlegmatic character wearing a T-shirt reproducing the Hitchcockian star figure seen at the start of the exhibition or the two members of an androgynous couple, a perfect image of the Platonic myth.

The exhibition continues with Crossing Views, a dialogue of a selection of works chosen by the artist from the collection of the Foundation, the works of Annette Messager, Samuel Fosso, Zanele Muholi or Clément Cogitore, particularly resonating with his work.

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