Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky (1955) is a German Photographer and Professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf , often mentioned within The Becher Tradition. Gursky is known for his large format  architecture and landscape colour photographs, often employing a high point of view.

Gursky  grew up in Düsseldorf, the only child of a successful commercial photographer, learning the tricks of that trade before he had finished high school. In the late 1970s, he spent two years in nearby Essen at the Folkwangschule (Folkwang School), which Otto Steinert had established as West Germany’s leading training ground for professional photographers, especially photojournalists. Finally, in the early 1980s, he studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie (State Art Academy) in Düsseldorf, which thanks to artists such as Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter had become the hotbed of Germany’s vibrant postwar avant-garde. There Gursky learned the ropes of the art world and mastered the rigorous method of Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose photographs had achieved prominence within the Conceptual and Minimal art movements.

The Rhine II 1999 by Andreas Gursky born 1955

Image above: “Rhein II” (1999) Chromogenic color print face-mounted to Plexiglas, image: 73 x 143 in. (185.4 x 363.5 cm) Number one from edition of six.

In 2011  Andreas Gursky set the record of the most expensive photograph ever sold. “Rhein II” (1999) was sold at Christie’s New York, November 2011 for $4,338,500 For those interested, here are the world´s 27 most expensive photographs sold.

For the Pyongyang series (2007), Gursky travelled to the Arirang Festival, held annually in North Korea in honour of the late Communist leader Kim Il Sung. The festival’s mass games include more than 50,000 participants performing tightly choreographed acrobatics, against a backdrop of 30,000 schoolchildren holding coloured flip-cards that produce an ever-changing mosaic of patterns and images. Gursky’s photographs describe, in panoramic dimensions, the incongruity of the brilliant colours and smiling faces of the performers within the controlled, totalitarian nature of the event. Images below. 

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When Gursky, together with other Becher students, began to win recognition in the late 1980s, his photography was interpreted as an extension of his teachers’ aesthetic. But the full range of Gursky’s photographic educations has figured in his mature work, enabling him to outgrow all three of them. His photographs—big, bold, rich in color and detail—constitute one of the most original achievements of the past decade and, for all the panache of his signature style, one of the most complex. The exhibition Andreas Gursky surveys that achievement from 1984 to the present. It focuses on work since 1990, when Gursky turned his attention to subjects that struck him as representative of a contemporary zeitgeist—and found equally contemporary ways of picturing them. In pursuit of this project, Gursky expanded his scope of operations from Düsseldorf and its environs to an international itinerary that has taken him to Hong Kong, Cairo, New York, Brasília, Tokyo, Stockholm, Chicago, Athens, Singapore, Paris, and Los Angeles, among other places. His early themes of Sunday leisure and local tourism gave way to enormous industrial plants, apartment buildings, hotels, office buildings, and warehouses. Family outings and hiking trips were replaced by the Olympics, a cross-country marathon involving hundreds of skiers, the German parliament, the trading floors of international stock exchanges, alluring displays of brand-name goods, and midnight techno music raves attended by casts of thousands. Gursky’s world of the 1990s is big, high-tech, fast-paced, expensive, and global. Within it, the anonymous individual is but one among many.

Image below: Andreas Gursky, Kuwait Stock Exchange II of 2008.

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By: Tina Holth
07.07.2015