One of American photographer Cindy Sherman’s most iconic portraits could set a record for the artist when it is sold at auction in May by the Akron Art Museum in Ohio, Christie’s announced this week.
The museum is an early champion of Sherman’s, whose works in a major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York are drawing crowds. “Untitled #96,” from Sherman’s early 1980s Centerfolds series, will be auctioned in New York on May 8.
The large-scale, color portrait is considered among the most important of Sherman’s seminal Centerfolds series. The Akron Art Museum is selling the work to bolster its acquisitions fund, with proceeds earmarked toward its contemporary art collection.
“The museum acquired this work in 1981, the year of its creation, showcasing the forward-thinking approach of the institution,” said Christie’s international head of post-war and contemporary art Brett Gorvy.
Christie’s sold another nearly life-size image depicting Sherman dressed as a schoolgirl last year for $3.89 million, a record price for any photograph sold at auction at the time. That record has since been surpassed. Gorvy said the auction house was confident it would achieve another record price.
Officials at the Akron Art Museum said the lucrative sale would strengthen its connection to Sherman. It organized her first exhibition in 1984, which eventually traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art.
“I am especially looking forward to continuing a commitment to Cindy Sherman by acquiring works made after the famous Centerfolds images,” said Mitchell Kahan, the museum’s director and CEO said.
The works in the series suggest quick snapshots of young women. But like virtually all of Sherman’s photographs, she is both subject and photographer. They were all studiously staged, from lighting and costumes to backdrops.
Working alone, Sherman designed her sets, lighting and costumed herself.
“‘Untitled #96’ represents the apotheosis of what [art critic and theorist] Rosalind Krauss terms Sherman’s ability to distill a ‘copy without an original,’ and thus signify ideal pictorial archetypes that define our culture,” said Andrew Massad, Christie’s international contemporary specialist.