Watch as we install Cindy Sherman’s mural


Watch the Cindy Sherman mural installation time lapse

The design of the Cindy Sherman exhibition was a collaborative process

Cindy Sherman expands on contemporary society’s fascination with aspiration, narcissism and the cult of celebrity. Focusing on large-scale photographs made since 2000, this exhibition charts Sherman’s return as the central model in her artworks, for which she is also costume designer, make-up artist and photographer. The exhibition includes two series made with high fashion houses Balenciaga and Chanel, a large scale mural, and an entirely new body of work shown for the first time outside New York.

The imposing ‘murals’ series allows Sherman to work with the scale of the museum, as works are five metres high and applied directly onto gallery walls. The women here appear to float in front of the landscape, as if they are alienated from everyday reality. Shooting the background image in New York’s Central Park, Sherman used a digital filter to mimic historical engravings or toile de Jouy, a printed cotton or linen renowned for depicting pastoral scenes. Sherman ensures a sense of vertigo in the space by mirroring the image, creating an unnatural symmetry, as well as repeating the image over curved walls.

The mural installed within the Cindy Sherman exhibition at GOMA / Images courtesy: The artist and Metro Pictures, New York / © The artist

This is the first series in which Sherman wears no make-up, instead, using Photoshop to change her facial features. Describing the process, Sherman recalls:

Sometimes I would cut out a section of my cheek and then stretch it so it made the bags under my eyes droop even more . . . Or I would use something to either blow up or inflate my lips, or shrink them. I was just exploring every option.

Looming large over the audience, these eclectic characters stare blankly, their dowdy costumes suggesting they could be part of an amateur theatre troupe.

Historically, the ruling class has been represented through formal portraiture, while the social realists transformed the working class into everyday heroes in their paintings. These unassuming figures are not typically represented in art history and particularly not on the grand scale depicted here.

The design of the Cindy Sherman exhibition currently at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) was a collaborative process. After working through a range of sketches, it was decided that the artwork would be exhibited in separate rooms to highlight the various themes within Sherman’s body of work. In addition to the photographs, a custom designed mural installation was to be featured centrally within the exhibition space.

Particular attention was given to providing strong sightlines to key works through the architectural build of the partitions. This would enable the viewer to make connections between different series of works as they move through the exhibition space. The sequence of the rooms and placement of each of the works were guided primarily by Sherman. Using an architecture design software, QAGOMA generated perspectives that demonstrated connections within each space and these spacial concepts were key in the ongoing correspondence with Sherman and the Gallery.



Initial designs showing various exhibition sightlines
Initial designs showing various exhibition sightlines

There are six separate rooms within the Brisbane exhibition, each showcasing a different theme, plus a central room featuring the mural. The dividing walls are all five meters in height, giving you a sense of the monumental scale of GOMA’s architecture. The overall exhibition scheme adopted a minimalist design, with an emphasis placed on the creation of a clear and legible space for visitors to freely navigate through rather than a single set pathway.

After ensuring the space allocated at GOMA accommodated all of the works, the design team spent the majority of their time on the display and realisation of the oversized mural. The central installation was of such importance to the overall identity and feel of the exhibition that it was custom designed and produced under Sherman’s supervision in New York, shipped directly to Brisbane and then installed by specialist contractors. Due to the enormous size of the mural, samples were supplied to the Gallery for testing to ensure an appropriate wall preparation.

In terms of the display of the mural, the Gallery envisioned its presence be integrated within the overall exhibition experience, thus several options were explored, experimenting with scale and configuration with consideration given to visual impact and the installation method. One of the initial concepts was to showcase the mural on a concertina wall.


Options for the custom designed mural at GOMA


A range of mural concepts were considered

Subsequent options were also presented and eventually the mural was positioned with in the central body of the exhibition space. This central position enables the visitor multiple views as they move throughout the exhibition and the curved walls create an immersive experience. The background image taken in New York’s Central Park creates a sense of depth and the curvature of the walls adds to the optical illusion.

We’d like to thank Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures, New York.

The selected mural design featured curved walls


The mural installed within the Cindy Sherman exhibition at GOMA / Images courtesy: The artist and Metro Pictures, New York / © The artist