Edward Burtynsky - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 1, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto

  • Exhibited

    Tailings: An Exhibition of Recent Photographs, Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto, 5 October 1996
    Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 31 January- 4 May 2003; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 24 January- 4 April 2004; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, 23 September-11 December 2005, another example exhibited

  • Literature

    National Gallery of Canada/Yale University Press, Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky, cover (left panel) and pls. 14-15

  • Catalogue Essay

    At the intersection of landscape photography and industry lies the work of Edward Burtynsky. He has described his photographs as capturing “the contemplative moment,” the instant in which his lens frames a landscape that provides the visual and emotional resonance required for a meaningful introspection. As such, despite their revelation of the underlying political, social, cultural and environmental strata, his works are meditative, not judgmental. “I can go into the wilderness and not see anyone for days and experience a kind of space that hasn’t changed for tens of thousands of years,” Burtynsky has noted. “Having that experience was necessary to my perception of how photography can look at the changes humanity has brought about in the landscape. My work does become a kind of lament.” The lament of which Burtynsky speaks is rooted in awareness—or lack thereof—of Mankind’s interaction with nature. Cleverly, Burtynsky’s images are typically devoid of human presence in favor of depicting Man’s trace instead.

    The great outdoors has been a source of wonder and excitement for earlier generations of photographers. From the sweeping vistas of Yosemite by Carleton E. Watkins in the late 19th century to the majestic aura of Sierra Nevada by Ansel Adams in the 1940s and the awe-inspiring jungles by Thomas Struth in the early 2000s, nature has been a source of inspiration since the earliest days of the medium. Like his predecessors, Burtynsky’s photographs, whose subjects include quarries in Vermont, shipyards in China and oil refineries in Canada, are flush with a sense of grandiosity, approximating The Sublime. Accordingly, his prints—like those seen in the current lot—are oversized, conveying a sense of monumentality that inevitably leaves viewers struck and entranced. However, despite the appeal of the vibrant colors, details and scale, a closer inspection of Burtynsky’s Nickel Tailings reveals an unfolding environmental predicament of great ramifications. It is a document not only of a specific place and time- here, Sudbury, Ontario- but of industrialization, itself, and its continued transformation of the world around us. In that regard, Burtynsky’s images are not so much as celebratory of nature as much as they are challenging its path, aligning his works with the 1970s groundbreaking show at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House in New York, The New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape.

    The artists whose works were included in that show, from Robert Adams to Henry Wessel and Lewis Baltz, all raised awareness of human’s industrial fingerprints on their environment, from skid marks on the road to broken trees on the side of a highway and crumbling cliffs abutting growing suburbs. Similarly, Burtynsky’s Nickel Tailings, draw attention to the consequences of mining. The deep orange and red colors flowing downstream are the direct result of separating nickel from ore, which causes the residual iron—or tailings—to oxidize. Burtynsky has stated that “these images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear.”

    The current lot marks the first time that a diptych of Nickel Tailings has come up for auction.

    Another example of this diptych is in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

  • Artist Biography

    Edward Burtynsky

    Canadian • 1955

    Universally termed 'industrial landscapes', Edward Burtynsky's photographs are rooted in the complex, symbiotic and, at times, destructive relationship we have with the earth. In depicting his subjects, Burtynsky balances an exacting, documentarian objectivity with a breathtakingly finessed beauty. His oversized works, whose subjects include quarries in Vermont, shipyards in China and oil refineries in Canada, have a sense of grandiosity and monumentality. There is an initial visual appeal of vibrant colors, details and scale; however, on closer inspection, the environmental dilemma unfolds. They are introspective and meditative, capturing a 'contemplative moment' where landscapes provide visual and emotional resonance.

    View More Works


Nickel Tailings #34 and #35, Sudbury, Ontario

Chromogenic print diptych.
Each image 38 x 60 3/8 in. (96.5 x 153.4 cm)
Overall 49 1/8 x 140 in. (124.8 x 355.6 cm)

Each signed, titled, dated and numbered 1/10 in ink in the margin.

$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for $100,000

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs

Shlomi Rabi
Head of Sale, New York

General Enquiries:
+1 212 940 1245


New York Auction 1 October