And now, as promised, Cindy Sherman at MoMA and my celebrity siting!
As I mentioned, I was at home in New York to see these shows before they closed. I’d gone to the Met on Sunday, and was going to MoMA on Monday. I wanted to leave the house at a certain time, but dawdled and therefore arrived at the museum slightly later than I’d planned. Quick stop in the large gallery on the 2nd floor, to say hello to my old friend, Ellsworth Kelly’s Colors for a Large Wall, and a new friend, his Sculpture for a Large Wall.
Up to the top floor for Cindy Sherman. Surveyed the humongous wall papers of her strange characters in the atrium, then figured out which between the two entrances was the real start to the exhibition.
I lay out all these details because the timing was key. I caught the celebrity in question in the 2nd gallery, and he then went out through the first. He’d clearly gone through the show backwards, and so had I been a bit earlier or later, or done the same, I would have missed him.
First gallery, with a selection of works from different series and a few early portrait experimentations. Second gallery, with the full suite of Untitled Film Stills. I’m going through slowly and thoughtfully, trying to savor each one despite their great number and small size. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of a man, smiling knowingly at the photographs, who looks a great deal like Benedict Cumberbatch.
Right now, you’re either squealing with delight, or wondering, “who?” If you’re part of the small percentage of the general population who knows he is, you’re probably already obsessed with him. He is the star of BBC’s “Sherlock,” written by the inimitable Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, a modern-day update of Sherlock Holmes in which the detective is an insensitive sociopath with razor sharp wit who talks a mile per minute. Check out Season 1 on Netflix, season 2 on Project Free TV (each season is 3 movie-length episodes). And don’t be fooled by the similar U.S. series coming out, “Elementary” (with Lucy Liu as Watson, seriously?????); it’s a cheap imitation.
So I’m in front of the Untitled Film Stills with a Cumberbatch lookalike. The face is spot-on, but I’m not sure about the body; this man is sporting broad, muscular shoulders in a tight t-shirt, jeans, and hipster headphones around his neck. I think of BC as quite svelte in his slim suits. So as subtly as I can I start following him around, pretending to look at art but really looking at him, to confirm my suspicion, and the more I see his face the more sure I am. Pretty soon, possibly cuz he realized I was stalking him, he left. As soon as I could, I texted my fellow Sherlock fans, with whom I’d just that day and previous night been discussing him.
Later, I had my doubts, because he was supposed to be in a play in London later that week. But I also found that he’d just been in New Jersey for some horse race. That he made it a point to get to MoMA for the Cindy Sherman in the middle of his hectic schedule, that and his knowing smiles at the Stills, shows that he’s a contemporary art fan. Swoon!
Oh, how was the exhibition, you say? Oh, yes, fine, good. I was in a bit of a tizzy after my encounter and had some trouble focusing back on the art, but after awhile I settled in. Otherwise, it was a good retrospective, progressing through her major series including some interesting ones I hadn’t seen, such as the Fashion ads in which she wears designer clothing but is otherwise completely hideous.
Generally each gallery was devoted to a series, but some galleries were a mix of works from different series with some other theme, like how she manipulated backdrops, or when she started putting multiple figures in through the magic of photoshop. These comparisons/themes seemed a little forced, and the mixed galleries seemed to break the rhythm of the show.
In my next post, Bowdoin and Buffalo, including more early Cindy Sherman!