For an artoholic Londoner like me, there is no better way to start the year than by discovering the opening (or, technically, a re-opening) of a public art gallery. In fact, when I realised that after visiting Modigliani’s exhibition I’d have to wait till April to see a new exhibition at the Tate Modern, I was starting to feel a longing to return to the South Bank. But, the sky answered my prayers and so it happened: the re-birth of the gloriously brutalist Hayward Gallery tucked between The National and The Royal Festival Hall.
And what better way to show-off this spectacular architecture than to hold the first major UK retrospective of the work of acclaimed German photographer Andreas Gursky. Around 60 photographs, many renowned for their scale that can often exceed three metres in height, stand beautifully in the gallery’s immense rooms.
Gursky’s illusory and boundless landscapes, created by clever digital manipulation, appear like tapestries, creating abstract worlds from gigantic ‘99 Cent’ shops (my dream), to frantic Formula 1 tracks (my nightmare) and artificially abstracted landscapes such as Rhine II (which, just in case you started picturing it in your living room, fetched over £3 million at Christie’s New York in 2011, so becoming the most expensive photograph ever sold).
With Gursky, photography becomes a medium for birds-eye imaginary spaces, where the perspective is not singular but multiple, colours are not natural but enhanced and details are not casual but artificially kept crystalline. In his hands, Photography is not intended to represent reality. Instead, it is a means of heightening it, and perhaps giving the viewer another perspective on everyday life.
Go: because it is not just about size, but so much more
Don’t go: if you believe photography should just be a documentary tool. Ok, we need to sit down and have a chat.
Hayward Gallery. £14.50pp