During the 1980s, Andreas Gursky emerged as one of the leading figures among a group of German photographers schooled by the eminent professors Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Bechers' teaching concentrated on the formal structure and documentary aspects of photography. Absorbing their systemically objective and rigorously conceptual style, Andreas Gursky's art provides a poetic commentary on our world, consisting of a series of monumental, animated vitrines, which highlight our relative insignificance within the magnitude of our surroundings. Gursky once remarked, "I want my motifs to look as though I could have photographed them anywhere. The places are not meant to be specifically described, but are meant to function more as metaphors. I am interested in global viewpoints in today's social utopias." (Exh. Cat., Kunstmuseum Basel, Andreas Gursky, 2007, p. 85)
Standing before Andreas Gursky's formidable Dubai World II from 2007, the viewer is immediately daunted by the power of the artist's vision and the labyrinthine depths to the mastery of his craft. In his large-scale, color photographs, the effect of capitalism and globalization on contemporary life are often focal themes prevalent throughout the artist’s oeuvre. The present photograph references the controversial project started by Nakheel Properties in the United Arab Emirates, where a group of artificial islands, collectively called “Dubai World,” are made to look like the shape of the world’s continents from a birds-eye-view. The project became a warning against excess when in 2008, the financial crisis hit and most of these properties went unsold and deserted – some even sinking back into sea before any construction of planned resorts started.
The work is a seminal culmination of the artist's profound recourse to the digital process of image making. One of the first contemporary photographers to employ new photo editing technologies in order to manipulate and alter his large scale photographs, the genius of Gursky lies in the fact that while the audience may be aware that the image has been manipulated, they are kept in the dark as to which and how much the elements have been altered. We are forced to accept the inauthentic qualities in a seemingly objective reality.
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