The refurbished Hayward Gallery reopens with a major retrospective of one of the most highly regarded photographers in the world.
Capturing wide vistas in huge colour prints, the photography of Andreas Gursky has been compared with the power and majesty of 19th-century landscape painting. Gursky’s focus, however, is on people and the manmade, portraits of collective humanity embodied in crowd scenes and architecture that dazzle the eye and challenge the mind.
This is the first major retrospective of Gursky held in the UK, and many of his best-known works are among the 60 photographs on show. May Day IV (2000/2014) portrays hundreds of revellers at Germany’s famous techno music festival. As with much of his work, the picture is taken above the scene, giving a spectacular birds-eye view while also capturing extraordinary detail. The same sense of both sweeping vista and minute observation is at play in Paris Montparnasse (1993), a depiction of a vast block of flats that, within the photograph, never ends.
More recent work has taken on an abstract quality. In Untitled XIX (2015), a field of tulips in the Netherlands is photographed from such a great height that it becomes a picture of bands of colour. Since the 1990s, Gursky has also experimented with digitally manipulating images to enhance effects and to comment on the nature of truth and fiction in art. In Review (2015), he creates a scene with four German Chancellors, including Angela Merkel, facing another imposing large-scale work of art: Barnett Newman’s Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950–51).