Executed in 1999, Toys "R" Us has the cool, minimalist aesthetic and abstract beauty of the greatest of Andreas Gursky's works. The image is restrained, pared down to horizontal bands of gray, punctuated by bursts of saturated color. The repeated geometric elements create a pleasing rhythmic quality, and an overall sense of serene detachment. The scale and composition evoke historical landscape paintings, giving an art-historical context to the vast, anonymous, modern architecture, as Gursky celebrates the symmetries and ubiquitous symbols of commerce that permeate our visual world.
Toys "R" Us was included in the exhibition Andreas Gursky, organized by Peter Galassi, Chief Curator of Department of Photographs at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, from March through May, 2001. Considering the differences between his work and traditional modernist photography, Galassi says that, surprisingly, Gursky has "held fast to a faith in visceral intuition. He has repeatedly pointed out that no amount of pondering and planning is sufficient unless it leads him to an image that persuades the eye; and, conversely, that an ephemeral unanticipated visual experience can yield a picture he had never expected to make. This element of spontaneity has persistently enlivened Gursky's work" (Andreas Gursky, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001, p.30).