Andreas Gursky, master of the contemporary sublime


HE SPENT his childhood sitting on the sofa set in his father’s commercial photography studio. Immersed in the advertising aesthetic, and surrounded by “photographic equipment everywhere, bright red Agfa and yellow-orange Kodak cartons and a chemical smell”, Andreas Gursky says he used to rifle through the “treasure-trove of equipment” for “anything that looked like it might be fun to play with”. With a portrait photographer for a grandfather, too, it is unsurprising that Mr Gursky later stated that his vocation was “not a conscious decision”.

In the 1980s he studied at the renowned Düsseldorf Academy under Bernd and Hilla Becher. A German conceptual-art duo, they shot industrial buildings and arranged them into grids, like the kind of pictures you find scientifically categorising a plant species. These formative years encouraged a new perspective on the artistic subject, and Mr Gursky quickly became a master of the hyperreal. His works look like they document reality as it is, but instead use technical trickery and skill to…Continue reading

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