Artist Cindy Sherman plays dress-up in Sweden

Ann Törnkvist
Ann Törnkvist - [email protected]
Artist Cindy Sherman plays dress-up in Sweden

The inescapable work of US artist Cindy Sherman has perforated Stockholm like a visual scream, both "repelling and riveting", as the Museum of Modern Art (Moderna) shows the darker side to the master of playing dress-up.


Femme fatale, errant teen, major domo, doyenne. There are few depictions of women that Sherman (1954) hasn't replicated and then photographed. While the Moderna museet in Stockholm tries to lift women artists out of the shadow cast by male colleagues who often hogged the limelight, or were allowed to hog it, that goal was less relevant in showing Sherman.

"Cindy Sherman was never marginalized, she was at the centre from the very beginning," Moderna director Daniel Birnbaum tells The Local.

The exhibition name 'Untitled Horrors' refers to two things. That Sherman never gives her art names (at least not publicly) and that Moderna has chosen to show some of her darker work that American museums, including the Moma, have kept at bay. Birnbaum says there is nothing new in European museums being more open to art that could easily be deemed offensive on the other side of the Atlantic.

IN PICTURES: See work from Cindy Sherman's 'Untitled Horrors' exhibition at Stockholm's Moderna museet

But on the topic of keeping things at bay, Sherman is renown for her privacy. As curator Lena Essling points out, the artist at one point went silent.

"She stopped reasoning about her art in public. She was so attacked that she decided to hand over the right to interpretation to the beholder," Essling tells reporters gathered at a recent press event.

Not speaking is, of course, not the same as not communicating.

"When her art emerged it seemed so relevant to a conversation about the power of media, a big, big discussion about modernism and post-modernism, about replicas and copies," Birnbaum says. "And are we ever producing authentic images or is it always filtered through preconceptions and stereotypes?"

He says Sherman's influence on subsequent generations of artists was indisputable, also in Sweden where he referenced Annika von Hausswolff and Lotta Antonson as two artists using photography as a medium.

"They are original, great artists but without the paradigm introduced by Cindy Sherman it would have been hard to imagine that they would have done what they did," he says.

Sherman is hiding at the press briefing when Birnbaum calls her name. "Cindy!" The Swedish reporters appear flummoxed. Turn around. What to do? Clap? That wouldn't be very professional. But she isn't just anyone. Instead, there is silence. Also from Sherman.

"A horror movie is never a horror movie without silent episodes," Birnbaum says later when commenting on the exhibition, which moves from the grotesque to the cheerful; or at least on the surface cheerful.

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