LONDON - Drawn to the French capital like so many artists before him, Andreas Gursky began to photograph the city in the early nineties. With architecture being such an important component of his work, Paris must have presented a wealth of subjects, and resulted in one of Gursky’s masterpieces, Paris, Montparnasse. This is only the second example of this photograph to have appeared at auction – the first having doubled the auction record for a work by Gursky – and the work being sold in London this October has impeccable provenance, having been acquired directly from the artist.
Andreas Gursky’s Paris, Montparnasse will be offered at the upcoming Contemporary Art Evening sale 17 October.
In Paris, Montparnasse Gursky was drawn to the monumental edifice Immeuble d’habitation Maine-Montparnasse II. Designed by French architect Jean Dubuisson, and built between 1959 and 1964, this building is a monument to modernism born out of large-scale urban renewal in the city after the war. Standing before Paris, Montparnasse the sheer scale envelopes the viewer. Exhibiting a mastery of composition and technique, Gursky photographed this modernist monument from the open atrium of a hotel opposite, taking two separate shots. These viewpoints are seamlessly joined, making this one of the first works by the artist to employ digital manipulation, which went on to become a key element of his technique. Without this doctoring the shot would be impossible and the manipulation means this view only exists in Gursky’s imagination. As he recalled, “since 1992 I have consciously made use of the possibilities offered by electronic picture processing, so as to emphasise formal elements that will enhance the picture, or, for example, to apply a picture concept that in real terms of perspective would be impossible to realise.”
Andreas Gursky’s Paris, Montparnasse (detail) will be offered at the upcoming Contemporary Art Evening sale 17 October.
Gursky gives a flat perspective to this vast façade, creating an abstract image that feels as though it could continue forever. The work is not solely abstract unlike the Richter Colour Charts or Mondrian compositions it evokes, there is also a degree of intimacy: within the apartments the residents can be observed conducting their daily lives. It gives this huge panorama a human element; it is life writ large, with intimate details portrayed with a voyeuristic eye – Hitchcock’s Rear Window on an epic, abstract scale.