GOMA: The many faces of Cindy Sherman

The Garb Wire jumped at the opportunity to attend the premiere of Cindy Sherman’s first Australian solo exhibition in 15 years, recently held at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA).


Attended largely by members of the media, super-fans and their plus-ones, the expansive common space leading to GOMA’s River Room was filled with an array of coiffed and suitably outfitted characters. A middle-aged lady in an emerald kaftan, a young woman wearing a beige kimono, an even younger girl in white lace. Velvet, beads, feathers, foil and flowers abounded, the result being a mix which seemed to signify how little it mattered what people were wearing. There would be something for everyone here, every look, every mood, every woman.  A kind of suspense and wonder hung in the air – how freakish, how confronting, how amazing would the Cindy Sherman collection be?  And would each of these sharp-dressed onlookers somehow see herself in the mix?

“The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told”

– Cindy Sherman.


Against the glorious nocturnal backdrop of the River Room’s floor-to-ceiling window views, QAGOMA’s Director Chris Saines took to the podium to officially open proceedings and welcome the artist herself.  All eyes swept over the front row guests in search of Ms Sherman, who in the flesh is as diminutive and unassuming as you would expect her not to be. Modestly dressed in a tailored jacket and pants, holding a pair of crutches, the only tell-tale sign it was her was those eyes. Distinctively blue and almond-shaped, they were surprisingly soft that evening, compared with the overwhelming range of expression she is able to project from them, for her portraits.

As everyone filed into the main gallery it became quickly apparent that not only are Sherman’s works for viewing, admiring and contemplation, there is also an interactive element – surely not an accident –given the ‘everywoman’ theme of her pieces. Selfies were taken in front of many viewers’ portrait of choice, along with copies of poses in front of the real thing. At one point, an excitable group of young women who may or may not have been three Chardonnays down, backing themselves up against Untitled #475 firmly enough that the whole frame shook.

Sherman’s most recent collection of photographs are printed directly onto metal and reference early Hollywood and the excesses of the roaring Twenties.  ‘These character studies evoke the languor of Depression-era greats, film stars such as Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich,’ says Ellie Buttrose, Associate Curator, International Contemporary Art QAGOMA.

It was a joy to see up close the vividness and sass of the portraits for Sherman’s ‘Balenciaga’ series (2007-08), particularly Untitled #462 (the one where The Garb Wire yells bingo – click above left). Also, the striking landscapes of her 2010-13 series for Chanel were impressive, a collection of shots taken by the artist herself and later manipulated using Photoshop – an Isle of Capri backdrop, as well as Iceland during the 2010 volcanic eruption. Each beautifully adorned figure looks aesthetically displaced against such stark and haunting backgrounds. Untitled #512 (click above right) is a personal favourite, it immediately reminded me English model Erin O’Connor wearing something similar, no doubt Chanel. A huge copy of this portrait is now on my wish list.

Tania at Cindy Sherman x GOMA
Standing in front of the five metre mural, which lines the centre of the exhibition.

The absolute highlight of this showing for me, as it will be for most, is the enormous corridor created by the five metre-tall mural (Untitled, 2010) which lines the centre of the gallery space. This monumental wallpaper features a cast of eclectic and imposing personas, some features of which Sherman has digitally altered to create elongated noses or narrowed eyes. The sheer scale of the images is jaw-dropping, made all the more imposing by each character’s eccentric attire and disconcerting expressions, looking (a long way) down from their positions in front of a ‘pleasant’ toile backdrop.

There is little wonder that Sherman is one of the most recognised and influential artists of our time, given she is not only the model but also the costume designer, make-up artist and photographer in every image.

Sherman’s succession of ‘Clowns’ 2003-04 did not disappoint. Almost bearing hallmarks of traditional glamour shots, each clown’s sadness, creepiness, pity or rage was set against a farcical background of twisted digital colour.

Finally Sherman’s iconic ‘Head shots’ 2000-02 was a wall to behold, especially as a chance to see ‘those’ eyes flashing simultaneously with aspiration, earnestness, innocence, pride, defiance and delight. By the end of the exhibition there is little wonder that Sherman is one of the most recognised and influential artists of our time, given she is not only the model but also the costume designer, make-up artist and photographer in every image.

An extensive suite of public programs will run alongside the exhibition, including;


Cindy Sherman Up Late: An all female live music series

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition, the Cindy Sherman Up Late series will showcase an all-female line-up of international and Australian performers, including Eleanor Friedberger (US), Major Leagues (Bris), Mojo Juju (Mel), Kimya Dawson (US),  Sampa the Great (Syd), Jess Ribeiro (Mel) and Teeth & Tongue (Mel). Read our story here.

In Character: Over 65 films focussing on ideas and personas

To complement the exhibition, the Australian Cinémathèque at GOMA will present ‘In Character’, a cinema program of more than 65 films focussing on ideas and personas also reflected in Sherman’s photography. Tickets for the program are on sale now. Tickets $15, Concession $12, QAGOMA Members $11. Season passes available from $33 for QAGOMA Members. Booking fees apply to online sales. For tickets and further information please visit www.qagoma.qld.gov.au.

The Cindy Sherman Exhibition is now on at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) until 3 October, 2016.


For tickets and further information please visit the QAGOMA website.

The exhibition will then travel onwards to City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand from November 2016 to February 2017.

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Pictured at top: Cindy Sherman Untitled, 2007 / 2008 #463)


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