Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cindy Sherman: Works from Friends of the Bruce Museum

JTF (just the facts): A total of 31 black and white and color works, variously framed and matted, and hung against orange and white walls in a series of 6 divided spaces. Information on the specific print processes was not available, but I'm assuming that the works are either gelatin silver prints or chromogenic prints (perhaps digital for the most recent), made between 1975 and 2008. Physical dimensions range between 8x10 and 71x90. All of the works on view were drawn from private collections in the Greenwich area. A catalogue of the exhibition is available in the gift shop for $20. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: It's long been known that there was a significant (and growing) concentration of wealthy, discerning contemporary art and photography collectors in the Greenwich, CT area. If evidence for this claim were still somehow necessary, the fact that a respectable mini-retrospective of the work of Cindy Sherman can be put on by a local museum like the Bruce, drawing only from the private collections of the immediate community, should put any doubts about this to rest for good. Ahead of the full scale Sherman retrospective scheduled for next year at the MoMA, this small show is like an appetizer prior to the upcoming main course.
Gathering work from a variety of collections has led to a show that jumps from project to project, hitting highlights across Sherman's career, with a minimum of scholarly backdrop or narrative thread. A few unexpected early black and white works from her graduate school days are quickly followed by a selection of Untitled Film Stills (with prints in all three available sizes). Color gets introduced via a pair of early 1980s works, along with a pair of terrific large scale images from the Centerfolds series. A group of tougher images from the mid 1980s Fairy Tales and Disasters projects leads into a selection of the crowd-pleasing History Portraits, flanked by a pair of more recent clowns. The final room of the exhibit mixes images from Women from California and her most recent pictures of aging high society ladies. It's a whirlwind tour of nearly 40 years of Sherman's artistic output, boiled down to a series of easily digestable representative examples.

At its simplest level, this show is a solid introduction to the work of Cindy Sherman for those who are unfamiliar with her brand of self portraiture; it gathers a wide variety of high quality (and valuable) photographs and organizes them in roughly chronological order; even a Sherman neophyte could come away with a general understanding of what she's been up to (while I was in the gallery, an older woman was walking around the show with her toddler grandchild, and at each picture, the boy would scream "it's Cindy!"). I don't think this show will add much to the deeper, academic understanding of Sherman's work, but it is likely to be a local crowd pleaser.
Beyond the parade of Sherman treasures on view, this exhibit also made me think about the increasing role of large, sophisticated private collectors in lending to public exhibitions at venues like the Bruce, where nearby supporters can now enable impressive, museum-quality shows nearly single handedly. From a quick review of the wall labels, the collections of Pamela and Arthur Sanders, Jennifer and David Stockman, and the Brandt Foundation have clearly made careful, long term choices in the Shermans they own; I'd certainly be curious to see what other photographic gems they (and others) have tucked away on their walls. Given the breadth and depth of the collecting going on in greater Greenwich, hopefully this will be the first of many shows at the Bruce that will mine the rich vein of contemporary art buried in this community.

Collector's POV: Since this is a museum show, the works on view are obviously not for sale. Sherman's photographs have become ubiquitous in the secondary markets in recent years, both in the photographs and contemporary art sales. Prices typically settle into the five and six figure ranges, with a few lesser known outliers on the low end and a few iconic works routinely up over the one million dollar mark and higher. The artist is represented by Metro Pictures in New York (here).

Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Reviews: NY Times (here), Hartford Courant (here), Stamford Advocate (here)
  • Most recent Metro Pictures show, 2008 (DLK COLLECTION review here)
Cindy Sherman: Works from Friends of the Bruce Museum
Through April 23rd

Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT 06830

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