- Andreas Gursky
- Stateville, Illinois
- signed on a label affixed to the backing board
- c-print mounted on plexiglass, in artist's frame
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2002
Darmstadt, Institut Matildenhöhe, Andreas Gursky: Architecture, May - September 2008, p. 81, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)
Krefeld, Krefeld Kunstmuseen, Haus Lange und Haus Esters; Stockholm, Moderna Museet; Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery, Andreas Gursky. Werke - Works 80-08, October 2008 - September 2009, pp. 196-97, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown, smaller edition)
Kiev, PinchukArtCentre, Group Exhibition of the Patron Artists of the Future Generation Art Prize: Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami, October 2014 - April 2015 (edition no. unknown)
Dorothea Eimert, Art of the 20th Century, New York 2014, p. 387, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)
One of the most influential photographic image-makers of our age, Gursky first acquired his conceptual approach to the medium from Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie. Despite the more lyrical aesthetic of Gursky’s oeuvre, there is an underlying theoretical concern that is not dissimilar to that of his teachers. Where the Bechers’ typologies captured the remnants of an industrial Germany, Gursky’s work could be considered as an index of the post-industrial era. Characterised by overwhelmingly spectacular spaces in which large, abstract structures are contrasted with the presence of small, distant human beings, Gursky’s work constitutes an aesthetic equivalent for the Twenty-First Century. The fact that many of his works have been digitally manipulated is highly relevant, as Gursky’s photographs often convey the abstract influences driving our globalised, post-industrial world that do not necessarily relate to a physical space.
What is striking in Gursky’s representation of contemporary society is not only the subjects, but equally the vantage point of the viewer. Gursky’s work has often been noted for its Olympian, god-like perspective, in which the spectator has a superior and often physically impossible outlook on the world. The power-mechanism at play in Gursky’s work is particularly pronounced in Stateville, Illinois which depicts an architectural structure that is designed to control the perspective and power-play between the viewer and its subjects. Built in 1925, the Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois is a maximum security prison, the layout of which is based on a design by the eighteenth-century British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The panoptical structure of the prison, made up of a circular space with a watchtower in its centre, is the ultimate manifestation of control and surveillance in architecture. Whilst the guards in the tower can always look out, the prisoners can never see the guards - creating a system of maximum control with minimal surveillance.
Taking up the position of a guard in the watchtower, Stateville, Illinois places the viewer at the centre of this power play in which they can observe each cell in minute detail. When viewed from up close, the all-seeing panoramic vista, a characteristic of so many of Gursky’s images, allows for a myriad of detail that reveals each prisoner in their cell. Not unlike Andy Warhol’s famous series of Most Wanted Men, Gursky places the country’s most notorious criminals at the centre of his work, here organised in a minimalist grid structure. Dressed in blue or yellow uniforms, and in some cases largely undressed, one takes on a voyeuristic role in observing all the prisoners in their cells; a visual experience similar to the one imparted by the artist’s famous Montparnasse.
With other examples of this work in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich, Stateville, Illinois is an important work from the oeuvre of one of the most influential contemporary photographers. Not only does it capture the artist’s encyclopaedic ambition to document contemporary life, it also reveals the compositional power play behind the artist’s camera, in which each minute detail is ordered into the grand scheme of the artist’s Olympian vision of the world.