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Cindy Sherman's self-portraits fill the Broad's first ticketed exhibition

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

It's only appropriate that the Broad, a museum whose reputation has been spread by means of its continuous standby line and selfies from a mirrored chamber, would mount its first special exhibition about image. Visitors to the free museum have eagerly immersed themselves in the new art museum's social media-ready spectacle, but will they do the same for a fantastic ticketed exhibition? We'll soon find out if Cindy Sherman, a lucrative figure among art collectors, can prove just as bankable for museum visitors.

Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life opens Saturday, June 11, at the Broad with more than 120 works from the contemporary photographer, mostly drawn from the Broad's own collection. Unlike the rest of the free museum, the special exhibition requires a $12 timed ticket.

For four decades, Sherman has acted as the photographer, director, makeup artist and model in her highly conceptual self portraits. Though her work has tackled everything from beauty and gender norms to her own art world fame, nearly all of Sherman's pieces—whether she's portraying a high-fashion model or a dirt-covered corpse—imply that all images, both photographic and personal, are fabricated.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #47. Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures

The Broad's exhibition takes visitors on a comprehensive survey of the photographer's career, starting with 16 photos from her iconic late-'70s "Untitled Film Still" series and wrapping up with this year's silent film starlet-inspired works. In between, you'll find her clever takes on everything from high society women to clowns, as well as works from her stereotype-tackling come-hither "Centerfold" series.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #92. Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures

So what does a special exhibition at the Broad actually look like? The museum has let the photographs speak for themselves with barely-there didactics along with pairs of accent-colored walls and floor-to-ceiling murals. It's a clean, polished and glossy experience in keeping with the rest of the museum.

"Imitation of Life" marks the first Sherman exhibition made with LA in mind, according to the Broad, so the career-spanning survey mostly draws from her cinematic-inspired images—but that could really be said about most of Sherman's catalog. The work will feel familiar to anyone who caught the Museum of Modern Art's touring retrospective only a few years ago, but it's the first Sherman show in LA since MOCA mounted an exhibition in 1997—of which the Broads were a major lender. While Eli and Edythe Broad's longstanding support of Sherman's work makes the exhibition convenient, it's not just an excuse to show off the strength of their collection; this is a chance for Angelenos to engage with seminal works they may have never encountered before.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #512. Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures

For those who haven't been to the free museum since its opening last fall, you'll find some slight changes on the third floor space. Though Sherman's initial footprint in the main third floor gallery was small, her first floor-filling show has pushed a few works upstairs, namely Takashi Murakami's psychedelic murals. And though Robert Longo's stirring Ferguson charcoal isn't on view anymore, you can currently catch a glimpse of it from the central staircase's window into the collection vault.

The quiet hero of the Broad continues to be its unexpectedly slick app and audio tours. For the Sherman exhibition, the museum has recruited the likes of Molly Ringwald, Miranda July, John Waters, Jamie Lee Curtis and more to contribute tracks to its audio tour. Even if you don't plan on plugging in a pair of headphones while you're at the exhibition, it's worth a listen on your free time.

For some visitors, buying a ticket to the exhibition will be a business decision as much as a cultural one—missed out on this month's free reservations to the Broad and don't want to wait in line? Just fork over $12 to bypass the queue and see some extra artwork in the process. But we happen to think it's a compelling enough reason to visit on its own. 

Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life runs at the Broad from June 11 to October 2. Timed tickets cost $12 and allow admission to the rest of the museum.

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