Installing Cindy Sherman’s New Photographic Mural at MoMA

One of the most exciting features of the Cindy Sherman exhibition is Sherman’s photographic mural, which is making its North American premiere at MoMA. Before MoMA visitors enter the sixth-floor galleries, they will encounter her monumental mural. Like wallpaper, the mural adheres directly to the surface of the wall, and wraps around several walls and corners to transform space and create an immersive fictive environment. The artist designed this configuration of the mural specifically for MoMA’s grand sixth-floor space. The soaring ceiling height allowed her to scale the figures to a colossal size—they stand 18 feet tall—the largest she has ever made them. The effect is utterly jaw-dropping.

As in all her work, Sherman is both model and photographer, but in the mural, instead of using makeup or prosthetics to alter her appearance, she transformed her face via digital means. She exaggerated her features using Photoshop, elongating her nose, narrowing her eyes, or creating smaller lips. The statuesque characters sport an odd mix of costumes and are taken from everyday life—they are eccentrics that Sherman has elevated to larger-than-life status. Set against a decorative toile backdrop, her characters seem like protagonists from their own carnivalesque worlds, where fantasy and reality merge.

Plan for installing Cindy Sherman's mural at MoMA

Installing the mural required the utmost patience and attention to detail (as you can see in the video above). Made up of 25 individual panels, the mural was installed over three days by Anthony and Mike, two exacting professional wallpaper installers, and Margaret, the artist’s assistant, who used a scissor lift to reach the heights of the 24-foot walls. The mural is made with a new material, PhotoTex, with an adhesive backing. Think of it as a giant sticker that sticks directly to the wall after pealing away a backing paper.

Watching the installation was exhilarating. As the characters were applied to the walls one by one, the space was slowly transformed. MoMA’s white walls and clean, minimal architecture morphed into a fantastical world that invites viewers to marvel and linger.

To get a sneak preview of the mural and the exhibition before it opens to the public on February 26, become a MoMA member, and attend Member Previews February 22–25.

Tip: For the best first view of the mural, use the elevators on the north side of the building and exit on the sixth floor.