With its expansive panorama, Andreas Gursky's Fortuna Düsseldorf invites viewers to immerse themselves in one of the most recognised spectacles in the contemporary world. The monumental vista portrays a football game between the National Dutch team of 2000 and that of the artist's hometown in Dusseldorf, where his work was recently shown in the major retrospective Andreas Gursky, at the Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast in 2013. Championed as one of the leading exponents of the 'Düsseldorf School of Photographers', Gursky and his colleagues Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff have come to define photography today.
Gursky's iconic aesthetic is in many ways a result of his time at the renowned Künstakademie in Dusseldorf, which counts amongst its alumni Gerhard Richter and Joseph Beuys. Originally taught by the celebrated artists Bernd and Hilla Becher, Gursky has furthered their reductive, black and white documentary aesthetic to create a dynamic new typology. Speaking of the impact of the Künstakademie in Dusseldorf, the artist stated: 'I was educated by Bernd and Hilla Becher (and before that by Otto Steinert)... at the Akademie in Dusseldorf, where I met Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Kasper Koenig, and others, was really important. I experienced all those influences and my work developed - very slowly - as a result... you can see that in terms of composition it comes from the influence of Hilla and Bernd Becher... and this is a way that I often approach my subjects.' (A. Gursky interviewed by G. Lane, Art World, Issue 1: October/ November 2007). Enlarging his colour photographs and framing his shots from an elevated central perspective, Gursky captures the world in a series of pristine monumentally-scaled vignettes, aligning the chaotic elements into a carefully manufactured framework, as epitomised by the expansive emerald fields of Fortuna Düsseldorf.
The players reduced to tiny Lilliputian characters, Gursky renders the world - and human activities within it - surreally and distantly beautiful. Indeed, at times the picture dissolves from a figurative landscape scene into an abstract composition, as Gursky suggests: 'my pictures are becoming increasingly formal and abstract. A visual structure appears to dominate the real events shown in my pictures. I subjugate the real situation to my artistic concept of the picture' (A. Gursky, quoted in L. Cooke, 'Andreas Gursky: Visionary (Per) Versions,' in M. L. Syring (ed.), Andreas Gursky: Photographs from 1984 to the Present, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf 1998, p. 14).
Perfected under meticulous digital processing, Gursky has transformed this highly recognisable scene into a beautiful panoramic image that transforms the drama of the football match into a work of serene calm. An immaculate combination of the artist's carefully selected angles and perspectives, Gursky began incorporating digital technology in 1992 to resolve what the artist considered to be the fundamental inadequacies of the documentary practice. Here, despite the clamour of the game and Gursky's ties towards his hometown and team, all emotions are withdrawn from the work with the figures appearing strangely still as if occupied by a private activity, confined in perfect minimalist isolation. This recalls Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno's 2006 video, Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait, in which seventeen synchronized cameras placed around a stadium captured Zinedine Zidane from all angles, even when the central action of the match moved elsewhere. They then assembled all the footage and spliced it together to create a 90 minute film that was focused purely on Zidane.
With Fortuna Düsseldorf, Gursky has also spliced the image together, having photographed the two teams separately, and then seamlessly combined them digitally in this photo, subtly adjusting contrasts in thetones of the green pitch and the red and white of their kits to better balance the composition. In doing so, Gursky has skillfully generated an 'illusion of a fictitious reality,' throwing into question the veracity of the image as it fluctuates between a pristine landscape and an artificial reframing of the world (R. Pfab, quoted in 'Perception and Communication: Thoughts on New Motifs by Andreas Gursky,' in M.L. Syring (ed.), Andreas Gursky: Photographs from 1984 to the Present, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf, 1998, p. 9). This resulted in a perfect union of technical skill with contemporary insight, providing a poignant contemporary examination of global culture.