There is something indefinable that makes great photos by Andreas Gursky great photography

Andreas Gursky is considered one of the most famous contemporary photographers. His work entitled by him Rhein II (1999) in 2011 was sold at a Christie’s auction in New York for 4,338,500 million dollars, setting a historical record in the sale of a photograph, which lasted for over ten years. Several of his images have achieved the status of contemporary icons, helping to establish photography’s status as an art form and therefore worthy of collection for both museums and individuals.

Gursky’s name in the photographic literature – as underlined by Urs Stahel, curator of the exhibition Visual Spaces of Today at the MAST Foundation in Bologna – «means much more, it is an art form, a world-famous name, a brand yes, a brand that from the late eighties and early nineties stands for “Grossfotografie”, for the “large format photography”, for “photography and art”, as well as for records in auction houses, and therefore, overall, for a new era of photography: photography in the art museum, photography in the art collection ». Yet when you find yourself in front of his impressive images, despite their fame, size and obsessive sharpness of every single detail, you get the feeling that something is not clear, that something escapes. We feel overwhelmed, we ask ourselves what is the right key to understanding the enigma and fully grasp the meaning of those silent and monolithic representations.

First of all, the source of this disorientation is the challenge that Gursky throws at the viewer on how to use his works. The large format and the long-term concentration on the construction of a single image constitute a stance, an architectural, visual and content-related declaration of intent. In fact, his ability is that of having managed to merge these criteria of the pictorial tradition into photography, completely transforming the exhibition experience; «Gursky is not a painter – underlines Urs Stahel – but he uses a similar conceptual basis in the idea of ​​wanting to create an image, he uses all the elements of photography and does it in a completely new way».

The forty images of the Düsseldorf artist on display span a wide span of time; here are his first works (Krefeld, chickens1989) along with more recent works such as V&R II e V&R III (2022), representations from the world of Salerno (1990) e Hong Kong (2020), his reflections on the modern tourism industry with Rimini (2003), on fashion with Prada I (1996) and on millennial production processes (Salinasfrom 2021) without neglecting the most famous works, such as the aforementioned Rhein II (1999), 99 cent II, Diptychon (2001) e Amazon (2016). «Gursky – continues Stahel in our conversation – shows us the way we treat and organize the world, for better or for worse, without any judgment or pretension of a solution. It is like a seismograph of our time who is simultaneously able to write an essay on the world, on the lives of others, a visual literature. He creates fantastic images, contemporary symbols that are interesting individually but, if we look at them as a whole, they represent a state of the art, of the photographic art and of our time ».

Although Andreas Gursky in his works seems to want to concentrate on capturing the essence of contemporaneity in the various modes of work, economy and globalization, recording production sites, centers of movement of goods, temples of consumption, transport hubs, offices of financial industry, places of energy and food production, in reality, as the artist himself specified, in his work and in this exhibition «the human being is always at the centre. Often it is not seen, but is portrayed through its behavior, its actions, its way of building. I am not interested in the individual, but in the human species and its environment».

The accuracy with which Gursky dissects the present and brings his subjects into focus, getting to the bottom of things and at the same time keeping the general picture clear in a personal construction of reality, is the daughter of the years of his training within the famous Düsseldorf School of Photography or Becher Schule and the putting into practice of the aesthetic research on the “new objectivity” of the spouses Bernd and Hilla Becher. «Gursky – concludes Urs Stahel – over the decades has always identified and photographed the most significant and symbolic global situations, he reveals the critical issues to us, but at the same time with his images he wants to keep alive and renew our interest in the world, in the its beauties, its dark sides and its complexities. He explores the particular, today’s, the contemporary, in search of recurring signs, rules and structures of coexistence, of producing, of acting and of ordering the world».

Immagini: 1. Andreas Gursky, Salinas, 2021 ©ANDREAS GURSKY, by SIAE 2023 Courtesy: Sprüth Magers; 2. Andreas Gursky, Amazon, 2016 ©ANDREAS GURSKY, by SIAE 2023 Courtesy: Sprüth Magers; 3. Andreas Gursky, Salerno, 1990 ©ANDREAS GURSKY, by SIAE 2023 Courtesy: Sprüth Magers

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2023-05-25 15:59:28