Guest of Cindy Sherman – A Judgment of Taste

Paul H-O’s (Paul Hasegawa-Overacker) documentary film Guest of Cindy Sherman premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Paul is an artist who began a public access television show in the early 90s, called Gallery Beat. The premise of the show was to enter gallery premieres, typically modern, predominantly based in SOHO at the time. Permission past the front desk was the first goal of the show. After that, your guess was as good as his was. He would of course show footage of art works and if lucky interview the artist, or any art person in the crowd. 

The show was a bit brash, even for the village now SOHO art crowd. Somewhat accomplished, Paul had shown in New York City galleries as well, his perspective was from an artist’s point of view. Nonetheless, it was a mockery, tolerated because of its less contemptuous and more humorous approach. Paul possessed a likeable, innocent enough, presence in the crowd. Gallery owners and artists alike engaged him; however, one would rather watch an interview than be the interviewee. One rising artist at this time was Cindy Sherman, best known for her self-portrait photography. Cindy, ever the reclusive artist, granted one of her first interviews to Gallery Beat. She was apparently a fan of the show. One interview lead to a series of interviews and over time Cindy and Paul develop a romantic relationship. As Cindy rises to fame, Paul, in retrospect, deals with his male-ego (always the guest of Cindy Sherman) and the gallery scene is on the move to the large industrial spaces of Chelsea. Gallery Beat is also evolving. The show and Paul’s vibe are a bit more sardonic, the atmosphere is somewhat cynical on both sides of the camera. Gallery Beat becomes the target and instigator of verbal, near physical confrontation with galleries and artists as they become defensive of his oft times sarcastic comments from previous shows. Moreover, as the Chelsea gallery scene lurches into exclusivity the doors of gallery spaces begin to shut in the camera’s lens.

The ‘underground’ television program, once a part of the art scene, loses this distinction as it takes on a more critical approach towards the snobbish scene of Chelsea galleries. Ironically, as Cindy Sherman and Paul H-O make more public appearances as a couple their relationship is solidified, and after a period of absence Gallery Beat is once again allowed access; Paul brings his camera along to an exclusive Hamptons event where the artists are wearing designer clothes. For French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002), consumption is “a stage in a process of communication” where “tastes function (as) markers of ‘class’.” Prior to the consumption stage one must learn “typically pedantic language” or codes via formal and informal (home) education. A sign of culture and status, this process serves to exclude just as it is an act of initiation (PB, pg 1, 2).

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5


  1. a collage… glad you enjoyed the article. Not sure if it is out on dvd as of yet. I stayed for q&a, and also had a drink with Paul, after the preview – they are a small op., so I’m sure its a matter of linking up with a distributor. Its a great story and an excellent example of a documentary film.

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