Andreas Gursky

Biography of Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky’s stunning large-scale digital images have made him the pre-eminent photographer of our times. His spectacular vision of the world could be said to have invented an entirely new photographic language and reinvented the way in which we view picture making.


His working method is highly original, at times he constructs and alters the very subject he is photographing. “All my pictures are based on a direct visual experience from which I develop an idea for a picture, which is subjected to testing in the studio and eventually worked on and precised at the computer”. Meticulously researched and densely packed, Gursky creates a unique blend of fiction and reality, and often one has no way of knowing whether the image has been manipulated or not.


Born in Leipzig in 1955, Andreas Gursky’s father set up a photography studio in Düsseldorf where he introduced his son to the equipment and techniques of image making. Gursky enrolled in a photography course at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, and then in 1981 attended the famous Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under the tutelage of Bernd and Hilla Becher. His fellow students included the now prominent photographers, Thomas Ruff, Candida Höfer, and Thomas Struth.


It was not until the 1992 that Andreas Gursky moved into digital photography and realised the astounding possibilities now open to him through digital manipulation. By splicing multiple images together and combining the details from two separate perspectives, suddenly staggering new formats and scales could be achieved. Often taking his photographs from an aerial perspective, Andreas Gursky’s voluminous landscapes coincided with photography’s rise in popularity in the early 90s.


Much of Andreas Gursky’s work is inspired by his fascination with collective forms of existence; depicting enormous man-made structures, vast gatherings, and collections of people in such things as factories, raves, and dockyards. The vast array of contemporary life is Gursky’s subject matter, as well as the changes occurring as a result of globalization, and humans’ changing relationship with the natural world.

There is something about the work of Andreas Gursky that is instantly recognizable—a distinct style which is considered rare in photography. His work is dispassionately detached, non-political, and requires the viewer to formulate their own response.


Working on just 8 images a year, the photographer has found his artworks are hugely in demand. Rhine II, 1999, sold for a record $4.3 million in 2011 at Christie’s New York. The work is a disorientating masterpiece, that appears as both a straightforward view of a stretch of water, but also as an abstract configuration of horizontal strips of color.


Andreas Gursky’s artwork has been exhibited around the world and his latest show at the Hayward Gallery in London, in 2018, is a large retrospective featuring more than 70 works. He has also had large shows at the Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden and perhaps most significantly a retrospective of his work at MoMA, New York which travelled on to the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He has been involved in two Venice Biennales in 1990 and 2004. Gursky’s work features in many of the world’s most high-profile museums including MoMA in New York, and Tate Modern in London.

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