Sprüth Magers is pleased to present a substantial exhibition of new photographs by Andreas Gursky, his first new body of work in almost three years. Exhibited for the first time at the Berlin gallery, the group of recent work will join many of his most iconic works for the artist's retrospective at MdbK Leipzig in December 2020. In the new work, Gursky takes up a range of themes that he has investigated for decades. Despite the continuity in theme and subject matter—our built environment, humankind's impact on the natural world—the new pictures embed his analyses in current events, offering renewed settings and situations to explore.
Rhine III (2018) revisits his important work Rhine II (1999)—the dimensions, setting and composition of both are all almost identical. And yet, just twenty years later, the mood is drastically altered. The drought of summer 2018 reduced the river to a record low, and the new picture offers a dystopian vision of the once flourishing river landscape. Cruise (2020) also brings to mind an important earlier work, Paris, Montparnasse (1993). The same grid-like structure features, but instead of a large apartment building, here there are hundreds of windows on the side of an enormous cruise ship. As with the Paris picture, Cruise shows a human environment atomised into a modernist grid.
Politik II (2020) directly follows Gursky's work Rückblick (2015), also included in the exhibition, to create a new series that looks at political structures. Over a period of several months, Gursky closely observed the activities of the members of parliament in the German Bundestag. Politik II features thirteen politicians in animated conversations, the figures filling the entire width of the picture. The fact that only one person stands aside, looking into a newspaper, emphasises the echoes between Gursky's picture and a typical depiction of the Last Supper. While the humour is only faintly perceptible in Rückblick—as expressed, for example, in the plume of smoke above Helmut Schmidt as an identifying feature of the former chancellor, the humour is bolder in Politik II. Who takes on the role of the saviour in this implied depiction of the Last Supper—is it Angela Merkel, who has moved slightly out of the centre of the picture, or Anton Hofreiter, whose shoulder-length hair alone seems to qualify him?
As early as 1994, Gursky photographed the high-rise headquarters of HSBC, in Hong Kong. Designed by British architect Lord Norman Foster, the building is still a dominant
feature of the Hong Kong skyline. While in Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (1994), one can still clearly see the employees on the different floors, in Hong Kong Shanghai Bank I (2020) a red-orange diode curtain obscures the windows, a screen against prying eyes. In Hong Kong Shanghai Bank II (2020), the façade seems to reflect the current events in front of the bank: A sea of colourful umbrellas, with patterns, faces and slogans of the 2014 Umbrella Movement. In another photograph, Hong Kong Shanghai Bank III (2020), words in horizontal bands stretch across the façade of the building. Highlighting everything from cultural figures to political flashpoints, the words invite the reader to reflect on the powerful structures that filter our interpretation of historical events.
In October 2019 Gursky's portrait Jonathan Ive was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery, London, showing the Apple designer in the company's new headquarters, which was designed by Foster + Partners in close cooperation with Ive. Gursky made a second photograph, Apple (2020), at the exact same spot, which will be shown in the Berlin exhibition. Apple features iPhones and various generations of computers in the same position as the designer, but placed on pedestals and lined up along the curved window as if in a museum.
Alongside other new works, such as Bauhaus, Pigs I and Untitled XXIII (all 2020), older works such as Antarctic (2010), Utah and Tokyo (both 2017) are also on display, and the exhibition overall offers a chance to observe a range of continuities and new developments in the artist's oeuvre.
Andreas Gursky (*1955, Leipzig) lives and works in Dusseldorf. Solo exhibitions include his upcoming retrospective at MdbK Leipzig (December 2020), Hayward Gallery, London (2018), National Museum of Art, Osaka (2014), National Art Center, Tokyo (2013), Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf (2013) and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen (2012). A solo exhibition organised by the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2001) toured to Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, MCA, Chicago and SFMOMA, San Francisco. His first retrospective, Retrospektive 1984–2007, was shown at Haus der Kunst, Munich and toured to Istanbul Modern and Sharjah Art Museum (2007), then to Ekaterina Foundation, Moscow and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2008). Andreas Gursky: Werke 1980–2008 opened at the Museum Haus Esters Haus Lange, Krefeld (2008) and toured to Moderna Museet, Stockholm and Vancouver Art Gallery (2009).
Press release courtesy Sprüth Magers.