Ah Hayward Gallery, we’ve missed you terribly. Some of my favourite exhibitions I’ve ever visited have been staged your hallowed, Southbank walls – Pipilotti Rist’s gloriously bonkers moving image works, David Shrigley’s wryly hilarious takes on death. Welcome back.
The first exhibition to be shown at the gallery, which is part of London’s Southbank Centre and has been closed for the past two years for refurbishment, is in the shape of the UK’s first major retrospective of German photographer Andreas Gursky.
The artist is renowned for his spectacularly vast works, which “portray emblematic sites and scenes of the global economy and contemporary life,” says the Hayward. The show features around 60 of Gursky’s works, ranging from those made in the 1980s to eight new works.
As with his entire oeuvre, his focus remains to form visual insights around ideas of collective existence; including photographs of huge man-made structures and massive gatherings of people in nightclubs, factories, arenas, and vast landscapes. “I only pursue one goal: the encyclopaedia of life,” says the artist.
Among the works on show are some of the artist’s best-known pieces, such as Paris, Montparnasse (1993), a gigantic photograph showing block of flats that appear to go on forever; and Rhine II (1999/2015), a digitally manipulated image that reimagines the river as a beguiling piece of minimalism, and May Day IV (2000/2014) which renders techno revellers as a piece of fine art. Throughout the work, there’s a beautifully contemplative, patiently aesthetic which makes us questions the nature of photography as documentation and see it as something new, something more.
“In recent years, Gursky’s experiments in manipulating images have led him to create examples of ‘fictional photography,’ extending his implicit questioning of our faith in the factual veracity of images,” says the Hayward. “As he has remarked, today, ‘reality can only be shown by constructing it’.”
Andreas Gursky runs from now until 22 April 2018 at the Hayward Gallery, London.