Lot 19: m - Andreas Gursky , b. 1955 Börse, Tokyo (Tokyo Stock Exchange) cibachrome print in artist's frame
Contemporary Art Evening Auction
February 27, 2008
London, United Kingdom
Description: signed, titled, dated 1990 and numbered 3/4 on the reverse of the frame cibachrome print in artist's frame
Notes: Andreas Gursky's Börse Tokyo (Tokyo Stock Exchange) from 1990 is without question one of the most important early photographs in his oeuvre, arguably his first mature work that has come to shape and define his art practice. The first of a number of images of international stock exchanges, Peter Galassi identifies it as a turning point in his image-making, "The resulting picture and the circumstances surrounding it seem in retrospect to encapsulate the advent of a new pattern in Gursky's work" (Peter Galassi, 'Gursky's World' in Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Andreas Gursky, 2001, p.28). One work from the edition of four graces the collection of the Kunstmuseum, Basel. More than any artist of his generation, Gursky's photographic eye scans our contemporary landscape identifying the subjects which best define the way we live today. In 1990, while Gursky prepared a trip to Japan to attend the opening of an exhibition that included some of his work at the National Museum of Art, Tokyo, he noticed a newspaper photograph of the Tokyo Stock Exchange and resolved to make arrangements during his visit to make his own version of the image. The work announced a new departure for Gursky, and the stock exchange, alongside images of illegal raves, was to become one of his most important subjects, as he analysed, highlighted and enhanced the strict, subconscious order that permeates contemporary existence. Although he had worked consistently throughout the 1980s, he subjected his output to a stringent self-editing process, exhibiting and publishing only a relatively small body of thoroughly considered images. The most successful pictures, such as Ruhrtral (Ruhr Valley) 1989, presented ant-like solitary beings engulfed by their surroundings, in compositions which share affinities with the romantic landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich but in a rigorously contemporary guise. In the Börse Tokyo, for the first time, Gursky focuses the scrutiny of our gaze on a crowd of individuals, each reduced to anonymous beings by the overarching principle of Gursky's lens. "The Tokyo picture also introduced a new image-model that soon took pride of place in Gursky's work: the aloof vantage point and small figures persisted, but the crowd now filled the frame in a dense mass from edge to edge" (Peter Galassi, Op. cit., p. 28). In Gursky's hands, the hustle and bustle of the trading floor becomes a sublime spectacle of aesthetic order, a parallel to the meditative experience of contemplating one of Jackson Pollock's action paintings. It also heralded a new way of working, in part necessitated by his subject. In 1987 Gursky renounced the hand-held 35mm Leica camera, preferring instead the larger format traditional camera which, by dint of a larger transparency, allowed for greater detail when images were enlarged to the monumental scale which Gursky pioneered, along with Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff, his older contemporaries, in the late 1980s. In doing so he turned his back on the tradition of point-and-shoot, spontaneous image-making which was the mainstay of the Cartier-Bresson school of photography. The five-by-seven inch view camera that he adopted in the late 1980s was much less portable, and the resultant photographs have a more staged, deliberate quality, consistent with the teachings of Gursky's professors at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie, Bernd and Hilla Becher. In Börse Tokyo, for the first time, the habit of spontaneous observation gives way to elaborate advanced planning for a preconceived image, a creative process much closer to the way a painter prepares an image than traditional photography. After Börse Tokyo, Gursky's process of identifying potential subjects through the media, focusing on subjects representative of the contemporary zeitgeist and the advanced planning required to gain access to otherwise closed areas became the underpinning tenets of his creative process. The result is a much more complex image of universal reach and significance. "His ways of working and ways of thinking about his work - his instincts and his aims - coalesced in the early 1990s into the mature aesthetic that has since guided his art. The subject of the Tokyo Stock Exchange is not the trading floor glimpsed at a given moment through the eyes of a unique observer, but the identity of the entire operation, including all of its unseen machinations - not so much a particular place in Tokyo as the stock market in general, as a global institution, or, further, as not merely an economic institution but a model of contemporary behaviour. The traders, uniformed in black and white, lose their identities in the mass, which nonetheless provides the raison d'être for the particular task that each so intently pursues, much as the ravers at a huge event draw their private raptures from the collective frenzy of the crowd. The stock exchange and the rave are made to resemble each other at a level of abstraction toward which all of Gursky's mature pictures strive. The aim is to obliterate the contingencies of perspective, so that the subject appears to present itself without the agency or interference of an observer; and to select and shape the view so that it suggests not a part or an aspect but a perfectly self-contained whole, corresponding to a mental picture or concept" (Peter Galassi, Op. cit., pp. 29-30). So successful was the subject of the Tokyo Stock Exchange that it spawned an entire corpus of images of stock exchanges around the world, which comprises some of Gursky's most powerful images, including Hong Kong Stock Exchange, 1994, the Chicago Board of Trade, 1997 and more recently the Kuwait Stock Exchange, 2007. While not a series in the strict sense of the word, Gursky's continual revisiting of the theme echoes the example set by the Bechers' 'Typologies' of pre-Nazi industrial architecture and reveal his enduring fascination with the subject of the stock exchange which he first explored in the present work. Seminal in the strict sense, Börse Tokyo is an early masterpiece.
Galerie Johnen and Schöttle, Cologne
Private Collection, Germany (acquired from the above in 1991)
Sale: Sotheby's, London, Contemporary Art, 23 October 2001, Lot 423
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Dimensions: measurements image: 128.2 by 166.2cm.; 50 1/2 by 65 1/2 in. alternate measurements overall: 196 by 205cm.; 77 by 80 3/4 in.
Exhibition Catalogue, Zürich, Kunsthalle, Andreas Gursky, 1992, p. 39, no. 12, illustration of another example in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, Hamburg, Deichtorhallen; Amsterdam, De Appel Foundation, Andreas Gursky - Fotografien, 1994, p. 105, illustration of another example in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, Düsseldorf, Kunsthalle, Andreas Gursky: Photographs from 1984 to the present, 1998, p. 107, illustration of another example in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Andreas Gursky, 2001, p. 71, no. 11, illustration of another example in colour & pp. 74-75, detail illustrated in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, Munich, Haus der Kunst, Andreas Gursky, 2007, p. 121, illustration of another example in colour