May Day V

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  • Provenance

    Sprüth Magers, Berlin
    Private Collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    Munich, Haus der Kunst; Istanbul Museum of Modern Art; United Arab Emirates, Sharjah Art Museum, Andreas Gursky, 17 February 2007 - 29 January 2008 (another example exhibited)
    London, Monika Sprüth Philomene Magers; New York, Matthew Marks Gallery, Andreas Gursky, 23 March - 30 June 2007, pp. 40-41, p. 142 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 41)
    Kunstmuseum Basel, Andreas Gursky, 20 October 2007 - 24 February 2008, pp. 116, 121 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 116)

  • Literature

    Ralf Biel and Sonja Feßel eds., Andreas Gursky Architecture, exh. cat., Institut Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt, 2008, fig. 16, p. 13 (another example illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Commanding in detail and towering in height, May Day V, 2006, captures the full vertical expanse of Dortmund’s striking Westfalenhalle building. Reflective of two themes that captivated Andreas Gursky throughout his career – rave culture and architectural grandeur – the work is a culmination of the photographer’s eponymous series, commenced in 1993. Documenting the German electronic festival Mayday celebrated annually in Dortmund, May Day V departs from the series' traditional depiction of crowds, and focuses on the event’s venue and backstage activity. While other examples from the present edition of six are housed in esteemed institutions, including the Vanhaerents Art Collection, Brussels, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, earlier photographs from the May Day series were recently included in Gursky’s major retrospective at the Hayward Gallery in London in 2018.

    Harnessing a number of concerns that Gursky has been exploring for the past four decades, May Day V is a testament to the photographer’s attentive eye for order, nature and collective structures. Developed under the eminent tutelage of Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Gursky’s photographic practice merges documentarian impulse with a manipulation of the image, and explores the politics of space in an increasingly globalised context. Framing contemporary human experience through a perfectly controlled lens, the artist proposes a new visual realm in which formal composition and socio-political commentary compellingly collide. Herein, the present work’s linear and homogeneous composition, rooted in the Westfalenhalle’s pillar-based structure, attests to Gursky’s formal interests whilst simultaneously raising questions on notions of individuality and collectivity.

    Emblematic of Gursky’s signature ‘poly-ocular perspective’, May Day V comprises various shots of the Westfalenhalle executed at different times and from different angles. ‘You never notice arbitrary details in my work. On a formal level, the countless interrelated micro and macro structures are woven together, determined by an organisational principle’, mused the artist (Andreas Gursky, quoted in Andreas Gursky, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 2017, p. 5). May Day V amalgamates various fragments of the eighteen-story complex to render Gursky’s ambitiously magnified vision.

    Careful consideration reveals a humorous touch in the artist’s manipulation of the image, as the photograph contains within its anonymous crowds the silhouette of Gursky himself, perched amidst strangers on the sixth floor of the Westfalenhalle. Concealed in plain sight, Gursky challenges the so-called transparency and straightforwardness of the photographic medium, infusing it with a painterly nod by referring to a self-referential mise-en-abyme tradition. Exemplified most notoriously by Velásquez’s discreet reflection in Las Meninas, the practice of including oneself in the creation of an image blurs the line between presentation and representation. Known for warping reality to his own liking through tongue-in-cheek pictorial manipulations, Gursky here imparts himself with the power of divine ubiquity, placing his body at once within and without the photographic lens.

    Allowing a clean, unobstructed perspective, the Westfalenhalle’s gridded disposition transforms the building into a penetrable structure gleaming from within. As vast floors succeed one another in neatly organised rows and columns, the building’s geometric composition emulates the velocious motions of a filmstrip, encapsulating an intriguing balance between staticity and movement. This effect ultimately echoes Gursky’s resounding statement: ‘When you reach a certain height, you can show the spaciousness of the subject, but at the same time the character of the picture becomes much more technical and loses its poetry. If you fly in too close, then the picture becomes narrative and the generality that I’m seeking loses its clarity and sharpness’ (Andreas Gursky, quoted in Andreas Gursky, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 2017, p. 118). Gursky’s façade works are compelling examples of this motif: they picture the vastness of a single structure yet attend to the exactness of context – effectively reconciling materiality and space.

16

Property from an Important New York Collection

May Day V

signed 'Andreas Gursky' on a label affixed to the reverse
c-print face-mounted to Plexiglas, in artist's frame
image 301.8 x 195.6 cm (118 7/8 x 77 in.)
overall 323.8 x 218 cm (127 1/2 x 85 7/8 in.)

Executed in 2006, this work is number 3 from an edition of 6.

Estimate
£450,000 - 650,000 ‡ ♠

sold for £495,000

Contact Specialist
Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060 rwiden@phillips.com

20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 7 March 2019