Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls
signed twice 'Andreas Gursky' (on the frame and on a label affixed on the backing board)
chromogenic colour print face-mounted to Plexiglas in artist’s frame
image: 38 x 29½in. (96.5 x 75cm.)
overall: 127 1/8 x 41¼in. (127.2 x 104.2cm.)
Executed in 1989, this work is number twelve from an edition of twelve
Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1994.
C. Schorr, 'How Familiar is It', in Parkett, no. 44, July 1995, p. 89 (another example illustrated, p. 89).
D. Ronte, Grosse Illusionen: Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, Ed Ruscha, exh. cat., Bonn, Kunstmuseum Bonn, 1999, p. 17.
Andreas Gursky at Louisiana, exh. cat., Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2012, pp. 88, 115, 129 and 131 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 89).
B. Wismer (ed.), Andreas Gursky: Bangkok, exh. cat., Dusseldorf, Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, 2012-2013, no. 4 (another example illustrated in colour, p. 47).
Hamburg, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Andreas Gursky: Photographs 1984-1993, 1994, p. 124 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 55). This exhibition later travelled to Amsterdam, De Appel Foundation.
Dusseldorf, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Andreas Gursky – Photographs from 1984 to the Present, 1998, p. 18 (another example exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 26).
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Andreas Gursky, 2001 (another from the edition exhibited).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Andreas Gursky, 2001, pp. 62, 184 and 187, no. 8 (another example exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 63; detail illustrated in colour, p. 186).
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Andreas Gursky, Retrospektive 1984-2007, 2007-2008, pp. 110 and 143 (another example exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 111). This exhibition later travelled to Sharjah, Sharjah Art Museum. This exhibition later travelled Istanbul, Museum of Modern Art; Sharjah, Sharjah Art Museum; Moscow, Ekaterina Foundation and Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria.
Krefeld, Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Andreas Gursky Werke: Works 80-08, 2008, pp. 17, 29 and 254 (another example exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 206). This exhibition later travelled to Stockholm, Moderna Museet and Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery.
Bonn, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Through the Looking Brain: A Swiss Collection of Conceptual Photography, 2011-2012 (illustrated in colour, p. 103). This exhibition later travelled to St. Gallen, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Post lot text

Sale room notice
Please note that the catalogue illustration illustrates only a detail of the work. Please contact the department to receive the correct image.

Brought to you by

Alexandra Werner
Alexandra Werner

Lot Essay

A key early work by Andreas Gursky, Niagara Falls, 1989, is an important precursor to the artist’s pantheon of awe-inspiring landscape photographs. An iconic, early image in Gursky’s oeuvre, Niagara Falls has been exhibited widely including the artist’s solo exhibition at Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Museum of Modern Art, Istanbul, and Deichtorhallen, Hamburg. Taking the vast, mist shrouded waterfall as its inspiration, Gursky’s, Niagara Falls fits within the artist's ambition to create photographic images that capture how human lives are affected and even controlled by their environment, and the smallness of man and the immensity of the world. Furthering the artist’s on-going investigation into capturing a globalized view, this work acts as a visual record of man’s attempt to tame the most tempestuous of natural wonders, as Gursky captures a tourist vessel careening into the heart of the thunderous cascade. By capturing the tourists within the frame, Gursky transforms the landscape to the intersection of nature, technology, and culture, the subject of the photograph becoming the larger than the waterfall itself.

Reconceptualised through Gursky’s lens, Niagara Falls is depicted as an active centre of human interest and interaction. By focusing on its role as tourist destination, Gursky places this monument as the subject of countless holiday photographs. In doing so, Gursky does not merely document how places look, nor does he merely reduce the fabric of our urban life to abstraction, but instead, he attempts to grasp and convey some essence of our existence in the cosmopolitan playground of the modern world.

An immersing, omniscient vision that borders on the sublime, Gursky situates the viewer perched above the landscape, as if we are just beyond the picture plane peering in. The camera’s aerial vantage point tilts the picture plane forward at an impossible angle that has been referred to as Gursky’s ‘God-like view’: 'I stand at a distance, like a person who comes from another world. I just record what I see’ (A. Gursky, quoted in C. Squiers, 'Concrete Reality’, Ruhr Works, September 1988, p. 29). It is from the remarkably distant point of perspective that the artist effectively captures a harmonious, holistic view of the world. As Gursky once explained, 'the camera's enormous distance from these figures means they become de-individualized so I am never interested in the individual but in the human species and its environment' (A. Gursky, quoted in V. Gomer, 'I generally let things develop slowly', partially reproduced at, [accessed 12 September 2013]). Dwarfed by nature, the single boat appears toy-like in scale compared to the vast waterfall it approaches. Offering a departure from reality, Gursky introduces an existential dimension, prompting the viewer to ask questions about the picture itself, the world it represents, and our own place within our own surroundings.

In the grand tradition of Turner, Monet and Twombly who expressed the sublime through the elemental force of rushing water, Gursky invigorates this time honored motif with his markedly contemporary perspective. As with all of Gursky’s great photographs, here he balances the sense of his intellectual progression of painting in the late twentieth century, with his acute relationship with tradition and most particularly Romanticism. The awesome spectacle of nature juxtaposed against the jettisoned boat cast into nature speaks directly to the great German Romantic painters of the 19th Century, and in this way Niagara Falls captures the sense of the artist's relationship with not only the landscape but also offers an oneiric atmosphere of man's place in a vast universe. Niagara Falls performs as a contemporary revisiting of Caspar David Friedrich's vision of the artist being dwarfed by the landscape that surrounds him.

More from Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Auction

View All
View All