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  • Provenance

    Sprüth Magers, Berlin

  • Catalogue Essay

    “The best situation to be confronted with your work is to come into a room or a space, and you don’t think about approaching your work, you just come from another world and you see it and you have an immediate emotion.”

    The German visual artist Andreas Gursky is best known for his expansively bold, large format photographic images. Gursky’s internationally acclaimed works are typically cinematic in scale and their elevated vantage point allows the viewer to feel enveloped by the panoramic scenes. As Gursky stated “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 in Interview, Foto8, June 8, 2009)

    Elevated up in the air, on a flight from Dubai to Melbourne, Gursky fixes his attention on the flight tracking screen. He watched his tiny plane make its journey across the blue, static ocean and bits of bright green coast. From this initial visual observation sprang Gurksy’s 2010 series of Ocean prints. He did not begin to utilize digital technology as a means to gently alter and enhance his images until the 1990’s, yet in the Ocean series Gursky’s work has taken a technological step forward. He sourced raw images from satellite photographs even though these proved unsatisfactory as they did not sharply define the land mass’s acute edges. To achieve the dramatic contrast between land and sea, Gursky gleaned satellite photos from the internet and pieced them together to generate his compositions. As the artist noted, “Even if a picture is completely invented or built, it’s necessary that you could imagine that it’s a realist location or place. I am not happy if the picture looks completely surreal. Even if I am working with montage, I want that you don’t see it.” (Andreas Gursky in: Andreas Gursky: Interview with Insight, N. Tousley, Canadian Art Magazine, July, 2009)

    In the present lot Gursky’s dark navy, bleak and static ocean is divided by crisp coast lines; the viewer is immeasurably distanced and isolated from the human experience of the ocean’s wind, soft sand, and dynamic rolling waves. The ocean’s vastness overtakes the majority of the image with just a fragment of dark terrain seen in the center of the upper edge with an expanse of white land running along the lower edge. “In his pictures, the photographer, the term Gursky refers to himself, adopts the vantage point of an ‘extraterrestrial being.’ What this means is demonstrating the greatest possible distance from the object being viewed.” (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). Removed from the surface of the earth, Gursky’s flat and almost abstracted image harks back to the basic elements of the universe, focusing on water as the source from which all life and matter springs. Yet, Gursky’s ocean is rendered inert and flat, pointedly lacking the potency of human life. “The diverse currents that flow into Gursky’s work emerge as the coherent picture of a world. There is no place for us in that world. Banished from its commanding symmetries, we are consigned to contemplate its wholeness from without. We may study its details at our leisure. We may be beguiled or repelled by the gorgeous spectacle. We may marvel at its serene indifference. We may even elect ourselves to sit in judgment upon it, but we will never become participants.” (Gursky’s World, P. Gralassi, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2001, p. 41)

    From Gursky’s remote perspective on the Rhine River, to the 99 Cent Store, to a Satellite in space, he constructs a compelling and even disturbing observation about the human distance from the natural world and the presumed mastery of nature through human knowledge-- its systems of representation and its constructed environments. “Space is very important for me but in a more abstract way, I think”, Gursky says. “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.“ (Andreas Gursky in: Andreas Gursky: Interview with Insight, N. Tousley, Canadian Art Magazine, July, 2009)


Ocean IV

chromogenic print, artist's frame
341 x 249 cm. (134 1/4 x 98 in.)
Signed 'Andreas Gursky' on the reverse of the work and again on a gallery label affixed to the backing board. This work is number 3 from an edition of 6.

£300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for £338,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
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Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Evening Sale 10 February 2014 7pm