London's Hayward Gallery reopens in January with a huge Gursky retrospective

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London’s Hayward Gallery is reopening with a huge Andreas Gursky retrospective on 25 January, celebrating its 50th anniversary and its return after a comprehensive two-year refurbishment. The first major retrospective of the acclaimed German photographer in the UK, Andreas Gursky will include around 60 of images from the 1980s to the present day, including five new works.
Focusing on man-made structures and large gatherings of people, Gursky’s images draw attention to our changing relationship with the natural world, and chronicle the effects of globalisation on daily life; his subjects range from a crowded techno music festival in Germany (May Day IV, 2000/2014), to an underground water tank in the Kamioka Nucleon Decay Experiment in Japan (Kamiokande, 2007), in which a boat glides amid a gold-studded interior. “I only pursue one goal,” he has said, “the encyclopedia of life”.
In recent years Gursky’s work has become increasingly abstract, emphasising pattern, symmetry and repetition, and frequently using a birds-eye perspective, whether depicting row upon row of packed warehouse shelves (Amazon, 2016), or barcode-like fields of Dutch tulips (Untitled XIX, 2015). Printing his work at very large scale, Gursky uses post-production to create “fictional photography”, and has stated that “reality can only be shown by reconstructing it”.

​Bahrain​ ​I​,​ ​2005 ©​ ​Andreas​ ​Gursky/DACS,​ ​2017, courtesy ​Sprüth​ ​Magers
Born in 1955 in Leipzig, Gursky moved to Essen while still a child with his parents, where they established a commercial photography studio. The family then moved to Düsseldorf, where the studio flourished, and Gursky has said that he spent much of his childhood in the studio plundering “the treasure-trove of equipment” for “anything that looked like it might be fun to play with”. His first images were made with his father’s “cumbersome old Linhof”.

Gursky went on to study photography at the Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen (1977–80), and then the Düsseldorf Art Academy (1980–87) on the photography course run by the respected conceptual artists Bernd and Hilla Becher, where Gerhard Richter also taught classes. Studying alongside image-makers such as Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, Candida Höfer, and Axel Hütte, Gursky later came to be identified with the ‘Düsseldorf School’ of photographers. 

Gursky was an early adopter of digital imaging in the early 1990s, and over the past three decades his innovative work has had solo shows at institutions such as the National Museum of Art, Japan (2014), the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (2012), and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2001). Andreas Gursky will be the first exhibition to appear in the newly-refurbished Hayward Gallery, in which the pyramid-shaped skylights on the Brutalist landmark’s roof have been opened to the interior for the first time since its initial launch.
Andreas Gursky is on show at Hayward Gallery, London from 25 January-22 April 2018, priced Read BJP’s interview with Hilla Becher from 25 march 2015, shortly before her death Read BJP’s interview with Thomas Ruff from April 2012

Amazon​,​ ​2016 ©​ ​Andreas​ ​Gursky/DACS,​ ​2017, courtesy ​Sprüth​ ​Magers
Les​ ​Mées,​​ ​2016 ©​ ​Andreas​ ​Gursky/DACS,​ ​2017, courtesy ​Sprüth​ ​Magers
Ocean​ ​II,​​ ​2010 ©​ ​Andreas​ ​Gursky/DACS,​ ​2017, courtesy ​Sprüth​ ​Magers