“I only pursue one goal: the encyclopedia of life.” Born in Leipzig, Germany, Andreas Gursky (b.1952 ) is an inquisitor of collections. Urban, global, local or commercial, his unique form of photography delves into the fabric of the contemporary world, and presents complex, highly detailed pieces that revel in repeated patterns and birds-eye views of an ever-changing and evolving world.
Hayward Gallery, London, features approximately 60 of the artist’s ground-breaking photographs, from the 1980s through to six new works, which continue to push the boundaries of the medium through a characteristically sharp style. Some of the most iconic pieces on display include the immense Paris, Montparnasse (1993), showing a seemingly endless block of flats and Rhine II (1999/2015) a sleek digitally-tweaked vision of the river as a contemporary minimalist symbol. Each image offers an aesthetic that is both visually compelling and conceptually challenging.
The compositions – bold and bright in their colour palettes – reconfigure duplicated high rises, shopping centres, landscapes and libraries as large-format, beautifully layered images. Whilst confronting the universality and anonymity of the current climate, Gursky’s lens is one of attraction and allure – rendered in technicolour, one that has been carried through to the most recent examples of digital representation. Amazon (2016) records endless shelves of boxes; consumer culture captured in its paramount of mass-production. Inside the frames, further boxes and geometric layering lie next to each other. Meanwhile, Les Mées (2016) depicts a commune in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in southeastern France. Rolling green hills covered by a maze of solar panels.
The self-titled show is a celebration of Gursky’s legacy upon the modern world. and also marks the institutions 50th anniversary year; the first exhibition to take place in the space following its two-year refurbishment, along with two of Southbank Centre’s other venues, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room.
Andreas Gursky is curated by Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff in collaboration with the artist. 25 January – 22 April. For more information: www.southbankcentre.co.uk
1. Andreas Gursky, Les Mées, 2016.