Andreas Gursky - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 13, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    White Cube, London

  • Exhibited

    Munich, Haus der Kunst, Andreas Gursky, February 2 - April 13, 2007 (another example exhibited)
    London, White Cube, Andreas Gursky, March 23 – May 4, 2007
    New York, Matthew Marks Gallery, Andreas Gursky, May 4 - June 30, 2007 (another example exhibited)
    Basel, Kunstmuseum, Andreas Gursky, October 20, 2007 - February 24, 2008 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Andreas Gursky, exh. cat., Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2007, p. 115 (illustrated)
    Andreas Gursky, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum, Basel, 2007-08, p. 35 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "‘I asked for a high position and they gave me a place which wasn’t high enough…and so I asked for an even more elevated position, because if you are in a very high location you can read the choreography much better." Andreas Gursky, 2009

    Andreas Gursky’s James Bond Island series, conceived in 2007, represents the artist’s majestic approach to landscape photography. For Gursky, elevated perspective and oversized scale play leading roles in his compositions. His work has become praised internationally for its stunning, cinematic scope and its effort to critique and document the commodities and spaces of everyday life. In the 1990’s Gursky incorporated the use of digital manipulation into his work in order to create series of photographs that were vivid in color, enormous in scale, and impossibly beautiful.

    The present lot, James Bond Island I, 2007 depicts Ko Phing Kan (translated in Thai as ‘leaning on itself’), a string of small islands located off the coast of Southern Thailand, in the Phang Nga Bat northeast of Phuket. These islands made their cinematic premiere in 1974 in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. In the film the villain’s evil den and nuclear base were situated on the islands. After the film’s debut, the once hidden, remote islands became a popular tourist attraction with masses of James Bond fans descending upon them yearly. Guidebooks now advise people to avoid these tourist traps “full of vendors hawking coral shells that should have stayed in the sea.”

    Visually, the present lot employs a striking composition. The ocean surface lies almost still and lifeless with not a ripple evident. The dark, jutting island forms seem to sit atop the ocean rather than rising from it. The scene depicted by Gursky is one that will never exist through the eyes of a single viewer. The hyper vertical composition is centered by a large rock formation that sits impossibly still upon the water. The center mountain is surrounded by smaller massifs; however, scale is impossible to discern. The horizon is vast and the edges of the photo suggest no beginning or end. One cannot fathom the actual monumentality or scale of any of the elements and so marvels at its serene perfection. But while scale is indistinguishable, the hyper detail evident is uncanny: atop the massifs one can see a fine and moist layer of moss sitting on each peak. The water neither crashes nor swirls around the rocky bodies as it naturally would on a coast; it sits and lulls the rocks to sleep in this mystical lagoon.

    The multi-perspectival image is one created by Gursky using digital techniques. His “God’s eye” cartographic view is unattainable and thus even more dramatic. By depicting these particular James Bond Islands in idealized form, Gursky is also offering subtle, somewhat ironical, commentary on the consumerist impulse to obtain and to experience what is seen in film. “The ‘vertiginous dynamic’ of globalization, the subject of Gursky’s work, is the contemporary locus of the sublime: a grand power in the face of which we feel our own smallness. Gursk’s vast photographs ---of the Hong Long stock exchange, massive ships docked at a harbor, cargo planes preparing to take off, a government building --- testify to this power. Although his photographs conjure images of globalization, Gursky is seeking less to document the phenomenon than to invoke the sublime potential within it. He freely manipulates his images, altering the architecture of the built and natural environments, creating repetitions, deepening colors, and collapsing time, in order to heighten the sense of the sublime.” (A. Ohlin, “Andreas Gursky and the Contemporary Sublime,” Art Journal, Vol. 61, No. 4, Winter, 2002, College Art Associations, p. 24)

    The uncanny nature of Gursky’s work is seen in these two seemingly contradictory elements: that of impossible distance and improbable pictorial sharpness. Within the present lot, the black islands form sharp outlines against the greyish blue sea and sky. Human eyesight becomes blurry and imprecise with extreme distance, whereas in Gursky’s world, distance seems to be the remedy for the inherent obscurity of human vision. Gursky says that “the reading of the pictures is the same. Even if it’s a really big picture, if you want to get the details, you have to approach the picture and you read the picture line by line, and the same if you read a very tiny picture. For in a way, the tiny picture could be a detail of the big picture, no?” (Andreas Gursky in "Andreas Gursky: Interview with Insight," N. Tousley, Canadian Art Magazine, July, 2009)

    Gursky’s “illusion of a fictitious reality” keeps the viewer from ever entering the space of the photograph and instead posits the viewer as if looking through his lens. (R. Pfab, “Perception and Communication: Thoughts on New Motifs by Andreas Gursky”, M. L. Syring (ed.), Andreas Gursky: Photographs from 1984 to the Present, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Düsseldorf 1998, p. 9) As Gursky explains “Space is very important for me but in a more abstract way, I think . . . Maybe to try to understand not just that we are living in a certain building or in a certain location, but to become aware that we are living on a planet that is going at enormous speed through the universe. For me it’s more a synonym. I read a picture not for what’s really going on there, I read it more for what is going on in our world generally.” (Andreas Gursky in: Andreas Gursky: Interview with Insight, N. Tousley, Canadian Art Magazine, July, 2009)

    Gursky’s James Bond Island I, 2007, is a monumental portal to an impossible world: one where crags sit gently upon a still bed of water. A cool and gentle wind sweeps through, around, between and above each boulder, careful not to disturb the serene lagoon in which Gursky allows us to escape for a mere moment before we realize the impossibility of the vantage point from which we stand. The illusion is not only fictitious, but wonderfully liberating.


James Bond Island I

chromogenic print in artist's frame
image 102 x 78 in. (259.1 x 198.1 cm)
sheet 106 x 82 in. (269.2 x 208.3 cm)
frame 111 x 88 in. (281.9 x 223.5 cm)

Signed "Andreas Gursky" on a label affixed to the reverse. This work is number 4 from an edition of 6.

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $725,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 13 November 2014 7pm