Andreas Gursky presents Visual Spaces of Today, a collection of his signature large format and “standard” size fine art prints, at MAST Fondazione in Italy. Curated by author, photographer, and curator Urs Stahel, who described Gursky’s work as “an experience and a step towards awareness,” his large-format prints are perfectly at home in MAST's modern, open concrete space.
The German-born photographer is probably best known for his photograph, Rhine II, which sold for $4.3 million at auction in 2011 making it the most expensive photograph ever at the time.
His large-format prints demand the viewer's attention, drawing you into the tiniest details. Exploring themes of economic and industrial growth, consumerism, culture, climate change and so much more, Gursky's vibrant and often startling images of the world offer a different perspective.
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This exhibition is Gursky’s Italian debut as well as a significant moment for both GD Teknik (the world's leading supplier of machines used in the manufacturing of cigarette products) which is celebrating its centenary and MAST, an international cultural center, which is ten years old. Both parties, although distinctly different, share a home as well as milestones. MAST is built next to the site of the old GD factory, and embodies Bologna's dedication to growing socially, environmentally, economically, and culturally. The phrase, “making work a culture and a culture work” binds the two organizations, both of which hold those values as founding elements of society.
Gursky’s images offer thought-provoking, striking views of an ever-changing world as he tackles issues of globalization, the economy, consumerism, climate change, transport hubs, and food production (to name but a few). The images selected for this exhibit have been chosen specifically to work within the space and align with MAST's ethos. It is an acronym that stands for Manifattura di Arti Sperimentazione, Tecnologia (Arts, Experience, Technology).
Included in the show are 40 photographs by Gursky, some of which take up entire walls while others demand a little less space. They include early work, shot in the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as Salerno which depicts a car shipping yard juxtaposed with nearby mountains. The collection stretches to his latest work, which captures recent world events such as mass flooding in Salinas, Ibiza, to words and phrases related to the pandemic in Hong Kong Shanghai Bank III. Gurksy’s fascination with the world, how it works, and how humans have impacted it lead to images that leave you feeling infinitely small and challenged by the content.
Although he confesses he is by no means a portrait photographer, his fine art photography does occasionally feature people, as in F1 Boxenstopp I, V&R II, and Tokyo Stock Exchange showing the very human aspect that is present in a lot of his imagery. It’s hard not to feel emotionally connected and even a part of the problem when it comes to the subject matter Gursky dissects. Through captivating, large-format works, Gursky has made a name for himself as one of the most important photographers of our time and continues to analyze and explore the world through his lens.
The exhibition is supported by a catalog that includes a foreword by MAST's president, Isabella Seràgnoli, and a critical essay by Urs Stahel who notes how Gursky is a photographer who “seeks to maintain and renew our interest in the world, its beauty, its dark sides, it complexities”
For anyone heading to Bologna, Andrew Gursky’s exhibit invites you to be shocked, in awe, and overwhelmed by the effect of human activity, consumerism, and modern inventions. MAST is a center for the curious mind with a dedicated interactive technology center as well as an exhibition space all housed inside a contemporary building that speaks of innovation. Andreas Gursky’s Visual Spaces of Today is free to attend and will be on show until January 7 2024. For more information on Fondazione MAST, head to the museum’s website.