Canadian Art


Andreas Gursky: Interview with Insight

Vancouver Art Gallery May 30 to Sep 20 2009
Andreas Gursky  <I>99 Cent</I>  1999  Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin / London © Andreas Gursky / SODRAC 2009 Andreas Gursky 99 Cent 1999 Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin / London © Andreas Gursky / SODRAC 2009

Andreas Gursky <I>99 Cent</I> 1999 Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin / London © Andreas Gursky / SODRAC 2009

“Do you think this picture can hold this wall?” Andreas Gursky asks. He is pointing to Rhine II, which is sitting on blocks on the floor at the Vancouver Art Gallery where he is installing the exhibition, “Werke/Works 80–08.”

It can hold a single wall, even at its radically reduced size. Just 7 of the more than 70 photographs on view are the kinds of big pictures this famed German photographer is known for making. The others are small, hardly bigger than the colour plates in one of the books on his celebrated work. Rhine II, framed, measures 42.3 by 63.5 centimetres, whereas the largest of the large photographs on view, Frankfurt, is 237 by 504 centimetres.

The monumental and the miniature are put side by side here so that Gursky can, for the first time, mount a full retrospective exhibition; this would be impossible with his large pictures. The Vancouver Art Gallery co-organized this show with the Kunstmuseen Krefeld in Germany and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden, where the full complement of 130 works was shown. Gursky, who habitually lays out his own shows, pared down the original exhibition to fit the Vancouver space. At every venue, the photographs were presented in a different arrangement; Gursky sees each of them as its own world.

Just a few of the works on view are the kinds of big pictures Gursky became famous for.

Rhine II pictures a contemporary river as a treatise on man’s control of nature, a landscape image that reads as straightedge geometry in a series of horizontal bands of colour and texture. The photograph is stunning large; it addresses the viewer’s body and perceptual senses. Yet it also reads at a more intimate size, which requires the viewer’s mental projection to enter its space. The size of the work affects its reception, of course, offering two different experiences. With the small prints, Gursky is returning his work to the realm of pre-big-picture photography, and he says he can imagine making small prints again in the future.

“For me, it was very interesting to think again about the sizes of the work,” says Gursky, who is 54 years old. “In the last years, I always produce the big works because I am accustomed to the size and because I normally work a very long time for one picture, and because I am showing in museums that ask for big sizes. The post-production sometimes takes a year and I am not working on so many different pictures at one time. In the last years, my production was more than before, but sometimes it is only three or four pictures a year.

“Now, because I have produced my whole body of work in a small size for the show in Krefeld, it has made me rethink size. I find that there are some of the big works which I show now as small ones that work very well, maybe even better than in the big size. It’s a new experience for me, and this is why I mix them all up.”

Page 2 »
This article was first published online on July 9, 2009.


  • Anthony Hernandez: The Streets, Seen

    For the past four decades, Los Angeles photographer Anthony Hernandez has delivered street scenes that speak volumes about society. Now, the Vancouver Art Gallery offers a broad view of his work—one co-curated by none other than Jeff Wall.

  • Andreas Gursky: Small is Beautiful

    Surprises abound in a new Andreas Gursky survey at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Though the famed German artist is best known for mural-sized images, the 130-work exhibition includes a number of smaller photographs as well.

  • Vermeer, Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art: Masters Redux

    The Netherlands set art standards—ones both reviled and praised—with the work of Rembrandt, Hals and Vermeer. Now the Vancouver Art Gallery gathers more than a hundred Dutch masterworks, direct from the Rijksmuseum.



[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem