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Andreas Gursky in March 2013 at the K21 Museum of Contemporary Art in Düsseldorf
January 15, 1955 |
Andreas Gursky (born January 15, 1955) is a German visual artist known for his large format architecture and landscape colour photographs, often employing a high point of view. Rhein II, an image by Gursky, fetched $4.3m (£2.7m) (€3.3m) at Christie's, New York on November 8, 2011, becoming the most expensive photograph ever sold.
Gursky was born in Leipzig in 1955, but grew up in Düsseldorf, the son and grandson of commercial photographers. From 1978 to 1981, he attended Folkwangschule, Essen, where he is said to have studied under Otto Steinert. However, it has been disputed that this can't really be the case, as Steinert died in 1978. Between 1981-1987 at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Gursky received strong training and influence from his teachers Hilla and Bernd Becher, a photographic team known for their distinctive, dispassionate method of systematically cataloging industrial machinery and architecture. Gursky demonstrates a similarly methodical approach in his own larger-scale photography. Other notable influences are the British landscape photographer John Davies, whose highly detailed high vantage point images had a strong effect on the street level photographs Gursky was then making, and to a lesser degree the American photographer Joel Sternfeld.
Career and style
Before the 1990s, Gursky did not digitally manipulate his images. In the years since, Gursky has been frank about his reliance on computers to edit and enhance his pictures, creating an art of spaces larger than the subjects photographed. Writing in The New Yorker magazine, the critic Peter Schjeldahl called these pictures "vast," "splashy," "entertaining," and "literally unbelievable." In the same publication, critic Calvin Tomkins described Gursky as one of the "two masters" of the "Düsseldorf" school. In 2001, Tomkins described the experience of confronting one of Gursky's large works:
- "The first time I saw photographs by Andreas Gursky...I had the disorienting sensation that something was happening—happening to me, I suppose, although it felt more generalized than that. Gursky's huge, panoramic colour prints—some of them up to six feet high by ten feet long—had the presence, the formal power, and in several cases the majestic aura of nineteenth-century landscape paintings, without losing any of their meticulously detailed immediacy as photographs. Their subject matter was the contemporary world, seen dispassionately and from a distance."
The perspective in many of Gursky’s photographs is drawn from an elevated vantage point. This position enables the viewer to encounter scenes, encompassing both centre and periphery, which are ordinarily beyond reach. Visually, Gursky is drawn to large, anonymous, man-made spaces—high-rise facades at night, office lobbies, stock exchanges, the interiors of big box retailers (See his print 99 Cent II Diptychon). In a 2001 retrospective, New York's Museum of Modern Art described the artist's work, "a sophisticated art of unembellished observation. It is thanks to the artfulness of Gursky's fictions that we recognize his world as our own." Gursky’s style is enigmatic and deadpan. There is little to no explanation or manipulation on the works. His photography is straightforward.
Gursky's Dance Valley festival photograph, taken near Amsterdam in 1995, depicts attendees facing a DJ stand in a large arena, beneath strobe lighting effects. The pouring smoke resembles a human hand, holding the crowd in stasis. After completing the print, Gursky explained the only music he now listens to is the anonymous, beat-heavy style known as Trance, as its symmetry and simplicity echoes his own work—while playing towards a deeper, more visceral emotion. The photograph 99 Cent (1999) was taken at a 99 Cents Only store on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, and depicts its interior as a stretched horizontal composition of parallel shelves, intersected by vertical white columns, in which the abundance of "neatly labeled packets are transformed into fields of colour, generated by endless arrays of identical products, reflecting off the shiny ceiling" (Wyatt Mason). The Rhine II (1999), depicts a stretch of the river Rhine outside Düsseldorf, immediately legible as a view of a straight stretch of water, but also as an abstract configuration of horizontal bands of colour of varying widths. In his six-part series Ocean I-VI (2009-2010), Gursky used high-definition satellite photographs which he augmented from various picture sources on the Internet.
Gursky first exhibited his work in Germany in 1985 and has subsequently exhibited throughout Europe. His first solo gallery show was held at Galerie Johnen & Schöttle, Cologne, in 1988. Gursky's first one-person museum exhibition in the United States opened at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1998, and his work was the subject of a retrospective organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2001, touring to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in 2001–2002. Further museum exhibitions include "Werke-Works 80-08", Kunstmuseen Krefeld (2008, touring to Moderna Museet, Stockholm and Vancouver Art Gallery in 2009); Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland (2007); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2007, touring to Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Sharjah Art Museum, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and Ekaterina Foundation, Moscow in 2007–2008). His work has been seen in international exhibitions, including the Internationale Foto-Triennale in Esslingen (1989 and 1995), the Venice Biennale (1990 and 2004), and the Biennale of Sydney (1996 and 2000).
- 1989 Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld; Centre Genevois de Gravure Contemporaine, Geneva, Switzerland
- 1992 Kunsthalle Zürich, Switzerland
- 1994 Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
- 1995 Portikus Frankfurt; Rooseum, Malmö, Sweden; Tate Liverpool, England
- 1998 Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, USA; Museum of Contemporary Arts, Houston, USA
- 1999 Serpentine Gallery, London, England; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland; Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy
- 2000 Sprengel Museum, Hannover; Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig; Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA USA
- 2001 Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France;
- 2003 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, U.S.
- 2005 Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg; Juan March Institute, Madrid, Spain
- 2007 Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany
- 2007 White Cube, London, England
- 2007 Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel
- 2007 Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey
- 2007 Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, U.S.
- 2008 Exhibition Building Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt, Germany
- 2008 Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
- 2008 Ekaterina Cultural Foundation, Moscow, Russia
- 2008 Haus Lange/Haus Ester, Krefeld
- 2008–2009 National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne, Australia
- 2009 Moderna museet, Stockholm, Sweden
- 2009 Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
- 2012 Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark
- 2012 Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany
- 2013 National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan
- 2014 National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan
Gursky's works are part of worldwide collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Tate Modern, London; SFMOMA, San Francisco; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Kunsthaus Zürich. Along with Victor Pinchuk, private collectors said to own Gursky in depth are Eli Broad in Los Angeles, Mitchell Rales in Washington, DC, and Bernard Arnault in Paris  and Gennadiy Korban in Geneva.
Most of Gursky’s photos come in editions of six with two artist’s proofs. As of end 2011, Gursky holds a new record for highest price paid at auction for a single photographic image. His print Rhein II sold for USD $4,338,500 at Christie's, New York on 8 November 2011. In 2013, Chicago Board of Trade III (1999-2009) sold for 2.2 million pounds, an auction record for a Gursky exchange photo.
- "Andreas Gursky's Rhein II sets photo record". BBC News. 11 November 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- Tomkins, Calvin. The New Yorker. "The Big Picture." 22 January 2001.
- Marien, Mary Warner. Photography. 2006, page 371-2
- Warren, Lynne. Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography. 2006, page 644
- Schjeldahl, Peter. The New Yorker. "Reality Clicks." 27 May 2002.
- Andreas Gursky: New work, March 23 — May 5, 2007 White Cube, London.
- Museum of Modern Art. "Andreas Gursky." Exhibition Catalog, 2001
- David Grosz (June 1, 2007), From Shore to Gursky, Part I, ARTINFO, retrieved 2008-04-16
- Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent, 2001 UBS Art Collection, Zürich.
- The Andreas Gursky: Rhine II (1999) Tate Collection.
- Andreas Gursky, May 1 - June 21, 2010, Sprüth Magers, Berlin.
- Andreas Gursky, March 4 – May 1, 2010 Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles.
- Andreas Gursky Guggenheim Collection.
- Sarah Thornton (September 20, 2009), Bedfellows. Two artists who understand the beauty of business The Economist
- Public Lot Details, November, 2011
- Maev Kennedy (2011-11-11). "Andreas Gursky's Rhine II photograph sells for $4.3m". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
- Scott Reyburn (June 27, 2013), Bacon’s Lover Triptych Fetches $17.3 Million in London Bloomberg.
- Sprüth Magers Berlin London
- Andreas Gursky at the Matthew Marks Gallery
- Ralph Rugoff on Andreas Gursky
- Andreas Gursky on Artcyclopedia
- Andreas Gursky at the Museum of Modern Art
- 2001 Andreas Gursky Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
- A.Gursky – Solo Exhibition 2007 in Munich
- Andreas Gursky’s Personal Exhibition in the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation
- Andreas Gursky, Kunstmuseum Basel Video at VernissageTV 2007
- Ben Lewis: "Gursky World" (Video, 2002)