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  • Provenance

    White Cube, London

  • Exhibited

    Munich, Haus der Kunst, Andreas Gursky, 2 February - 13 April, 2007 (another example exhibited)
    London, Sprüth Magers, Andreas Gursky, 22 March - 12 May, 2007 (another example exhibited)
    London, White Cube, Andreas Gursky, 23 March – 4 May, 2007
    New York, Matthew Marks Gallery, Andreas Gursky, 4 May - 30 June, 2007 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    T. Weski, Andreas Gursky, Cologne: Snoeck Verlangsgesellschaft GmbH, Cologne, 2007, pp. 115-117 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Andreas Gursky’s vast and vertiginous photographs have made him one of the most acclaimed image makers of our time. He documents the colossal spectacle of contemporary global existence with an eye for the uncanny, using digital techniques to create visions of unnerving scale and infinite clarity.

    The present lot is part of a series conceived in 2007, based on aerial photographs of the Thai islands of Khao Phing Kan. These islands featured in the 1974 James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. Following the movie’s wide popularity, this previously secluded spot became a magnet for tourists, quickly despoiling the area of its natural mystique. The enormous, inhuman gaze of James Bond Island III casts a judgment upon the aspirational aura such places are afforded in our collective imagination: Gursky’s islands ‘elegantly critique the pursuit of escapism through commonly held fantasies of seclusion and paradise.’ (Aaron Schuman, ‘Review: Andreas Gursky, White Cube, Mason’s Yard, 23 March – 5 May 2007,’ Hotshoe International, April/May 2007). For the islands are, of course, impossible – captured from a standpoint of incredible altitude, sharp in sparkling detail down to the minutest of vegetation, and hovering in an eerily waveless sea.

    The astonishing detail and precision of Gursky’s image, achieving a focus inaccessible to the naked eye, is ‘photogenic’ in the word’s ultimate sense: the photogenic is a quality which can appear only in a picture. Gursky’s hyper-hygienic production testifies to the dispassionately scientific, even taxonomic impulse behind his work. He is a cataloguer of modernity. Much of his output focuses on repeating structures and massive anonymity, such as his famed series of high-rise office blocks or supermarket warehouses; when, as in the present lot, he turns his gaze to landscapes, they are invariably artificial and unsettling. His iterations of manmade islands in Dubai and the bizarre, twisting racetracks of the Bahrain desert push these structures almost to abstraction. A single picture takes many months to assemble. As Ralph Rugoff has remarked, the subject matter of Gursky’s photographs is in fact secondary to their mode of presentation, and the careful mise-en-scène of their creation. ‘It’s not simply a matter of seeing reality as packaged goods, but of realising that our gaze itself is a kind of stylised container. At the moment, Gursky is one of our chief chroniclers of this look. Ostensibly, his camera surveys an eclectic range of subject matter: factories, sea ports and air-cargo sites, dance clubs, landscapes, trading floors and shoe displays. But the real subject of his pictures is always the invisible bubble that our gaze sets upon the world.’ (Ralph Rugoff, ‘World Perfect,’ Frieze, Issue 43, November – December 1998).

    A teleology towards Gursky’s distinctive ‘God’s-eye’ view can be traced from his studies under Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie in the early 1980s; fellow students from this fruitful period include Thomas Ruff and Candida Höfer. The Bechers employed elevated viewpoints to document industrial relics such as cooling towers and furnaces, displaying a similar cataloguing eye to that which we see in Gursky. The Bechers’ coolly detached lense sought to record locations, and particularly the relationship between man and nature, in a straightforward and objective manner.

    Gursky has evolved these principles for the twenty-first century. He blurs the distinction between macro and microcosm and expands his vision to confront us with the sublime. His work can induce vertigo or even terror in its monumental scale. The tiny boats just visible in the strange, still archipelago of James Bond Island III are supernaturally miniature, their wakes leaving vulnerable, insignificant traces; a zig-zagging composition leads us to a misty and unending horizon, and the whole is lent a hushed sense of the unknowable and otherworldly. This is an image that offers a literally huge area for visual exploration, but little comfort or familiarity. Surface has become an aesthetic category, and Gursky finds paradoxical depths of profundity therein.


Ο ◆16

James Bond Island III

chromogenic print, in artist's frame
image 284.5 x 200.7 cm (112 x 79 in.)
sheet 302.3 x 218.4 cm (119 x 85 7/8 in.)
frame 307 x 223.3 cm (120 7/8 x 87 7/8 in.)

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

£300,000 - 500,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £362,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 29 June 2015 7pm