07. October 2023 – 03. March 2024

For almost 50 years, the American artist Cindy Sherman (*1954) has been making fashion and its depiction a theme of her work. She uses her numerous commissions from magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as well as her close collaborations with famous designers as a constant source of inspiration.

Sherman’s interest in the fashion world shows a subversive attitude toward what it represents. Through humor and staging, her pictures become parodies of fashion photography: they show figures that are anything but desirable and thus contradict all conventions of haute couture and the usual ideas of beauty. Through humor and staging, her pictures become parodies of fashion photography: they do not convey the glamour, sex appeal, or elegance that are normally associated with fashion and reproduced by fashion magazines. Instead, they feature figures who are anything but desirable—goofy, ugly, hysterical, angry, or slightly insane—thus defying all conventions of haute couture and common notions of beauty.

Whether Sherman portrays misfits, partygoers, clowns, reality show protagonists, or carnivalesque characters, they are always victims of norms of beauty and behavioral patterns. With their barely concealed traces of cosmetic surgery and their gaudy outfits, her older women show a desperate striving for youth. Sherman’s photographs are also a commentary on the issue of aging in our society and the possibilities of digital and medical beautification. At the same time, however, they show how violence, cruelty, and aggression are also at play beneath the glossy surface of the fashion industry.

Fashion is the starting point of the artist’s critical questions about identity, gender, stereotypes, and age. Her wide range of characters demonstrates the artificiality and mutability of identity, which more than ever seems selectable, (self-)constructed, and fluid.

Curated by Dr. Alessandra Nappo, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Produced in cooperation with the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart