Andreas Gursky

(b. 1955)

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(1955– )

German photographer, born in Leipzig. He grew up in Düsseldorf, the son of a commercial photographer. A student of photography under Bernd and Hilla Becher, he has become one of the most successful exponents of the large-scale photograph. He works in colour and, since the 1990s, has sometimes applied digital manipulation to the image. His subjects are taken from the commercial and financial worlds, a theme which allows Gursky, by working from a distance, to reveal an almost choreographed order of movements within the apparent variety. Singapore Stock Exchange (1997, Guggenheim Museum, New York) is typical in the way it exploits the colour-coded jackets of the exchange members. Landscape has also been a theme of Gursky's work, but his best-known piece is probably 99 cent (1999). This is a view of a vast and empty discount store, its goods united by the same low price. Tate curator Emma Dexter describes this as an example of ‘terrifying toxic sublime’ and perhaps Gursky's most significant achievement is to invoke that sense of awe, traditionally associated with the natural world, in the most banal manifestations of contemporary life. Alix Ohlin who has described Gursky's work as a ‘map of the postmodern civilized world’, has argued that this is because the ‘sprawling network of technology, government, business and communications’ has left us with a similar sense of powerlessness that we once felt in relation to God.

Further Reading

A. Ohlin, ‘Andreas Gursky and the Contemporary Sublime’, Art Journal, vol. 61, no. 4 (2002)

Subjects: Art.

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