“99 Cent”, by Andreas Gursky [6 ‘ 9 1/2″ x 11’ (207 x 337 cm)]
For the German photographer Andreas Gursky (born 1955) everything is about big and small. Big pictures of large structures and spaces depicting people that appear to be no more than small ants. I have never seen his prints in a gallery but from the image sizes described in the web, one can imagine that the pictures must have an imposing presence. As imposing as the size it is the price that his images command in auctions.
In two recent occasions, his prints have sold for in excess of $2 million, with a recent purchase by an anonymous bidder paying $2.48 million for a print of a discount store, “99 Cent II Diptychon” (2001), which shows the cluttered interior of the store. Not a low price for what is – ironically – intended to reflect postmodern discount stores. I really don’t know what to make of the extrenely high prices paid for prints of a living photographer, but certainly I am puzzled about how pricing of modern photography is defined.
PND online has published an article describing the recent auction. Despite being a favorite for deep pocket collectors it appears that Andreas Gursky does not need to market his work on-line as he does not have a website and it is quite difficult to find much of his work in the web. You can see some of his images here.
Very interestingly, Gursky began digitally manipulating his prints as new photographic technologies were invented. In images from the 99 Cent Store series, Gursky has altered the image to place the foreground and background on the same visual plane and eliminate atmospheric perspective. Many of the alterations are impossible to discern from reality.
Digital manipulation is present in other works as well. He digitally manipulates his images—combining discrete views of the same subject, deleting extraneous details, enhancing colors—to create a kind of “assisted realism”. His view of the Stockholm public library, a perfect hemisphere of color-coded books, omits the actual floor, which, in reality, includes an escalator that would have marred the symmetry of the image. Likewise, the traders in Gursky’s rendering of the Singapore stock exchange wear only red, yellow, or blue jackets. Both of these images are part of the Guggenheim museum permanent collection.
Raised in Germany by parents who were commercial photographers, Gursky studied at the prestigious Düsseldorf Kunstakademie under conceptual photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Becher’s teaching concentrated on the formal structure and documentary aspects of photography — an influence that can still be seen in Gursky’s photographs today. I will link to the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher in the future as it is very interesting and will be easy to appreciate the influence on the work of Gursky.
You can read an interesting description of Gursky’s work and bio in this article by Peter Marshall at About.com.