From the early 1990s, the German photographer Andreas Gursky has made a name for himself with his monumental and extremely detailed colour photographs. A former student of Bernd and Hilla Becher, like Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, Candida Höfer, and other leading German photographers, Gursky has developed a conceptual form of photography that can be seen as a social landscape. Gursky’s works continue such precise, systematic compositions, but they address a global present where goods and people circulate in large rooms, such as illuminated high-rise buildings and international stock exchanges.
The photograph San Francisco is over two metres tall and shows the extravagantly spacious lobby of a modern hotel, complete with the de rigueur abstract sculpture. The atrium’s generic architecture is depicted as a chaotic plane that virtually bombards the viewer with lines, patterns, and perspectives: the centre and periphery of the scene seem to be on an equal footing. Human presence is shunted to the background, with the focus more on polished architectural surfaces and prestigious objects. The seamless room is the result of a digital manipulation that greatly widens the spatial scope and makes reality more scenic. Gursky’s large-scale works have been described as parallels to the romantic, highly emotive landscape paintings of the nineteenth century, but his photographs observe contemporary life coolly and from a distance. The crystal clear matter-of-factness in Gursky’s approach documents the mysteries brought about by the form and content of late capitalism.
Text: Line Ulekleiv
From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0