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Dubai World III

Dubai World III
signed, titled, numbered and dated 'Dubai World III 2008 1⁄6 A Gursky' (on the reverse)
c-print mounted on Plexiglas, in artist's frame
93 ¼ x 135 in. (237 x 343 cm.)
Executed in 2008. This work is number one from an edition of six.
Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Private Collection
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
A.R. Abrams, "How Does Andreas Gursky Turn His Expansive Photos into Massive Auction Results?," Artnet News, January 2016, digital.
Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Now Is the Time: Collection Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, March-October 2019 (another example exhibited).
Marseille, MuCEM - Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, Voyage Voyages, January-May 2020 (another example exhibited).

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Julian Ehrlich
Julian Ehrlich Associate Vice President, Specialist, Head of Post-War to Present Sale

Lot Essay

Through the medium of photography, Andreas Gursky skillfully captures a striking visual narrative that juxtaposes humanity's impact on the pristine natural landscape. In his three-part photographic series, notably in Dubai World III, Gursky artfully alludes to the ambitious “Dubai World” project initiated by Nakheel Properties. This project was a visionary endeavor which sought to construct artificial islands shaped like the world itself along the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Nakheel Properties, however, encountered substantial challenges in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, disrupting the development of numerous resorts on these islands. Troubling reports even emerged, suggesting that certain islands were slowly succumbing to the relentless force of the sea, sinking back into its depths. Gursky’s documentation of Dubai World III serves as a critique of humanity’s audacious attempt to exert control over the forces of nature.

Gursky’s Dubai World III enthralls viewers with its masterful utilization of an elevated perspective, meticulously creating a composition that accentuates the monumental scale, grandeur, and intricate designs of the Dubai World project. As the viewer immerses into the image, a profound sense of the sheer magnitude and precise craftmanship of the artificial islands emerges, only to be humbled by the boundless expanse of the sea—the islands are enveloped by the sea’s cerulean embrace. The interplay between human ambition and nature’s indomitable force prompts reflection on the delicate equilibrium between human progress and the preservation of the natural landscape.

Yet when the viewers peer into this photo, we are brought to question the constraints of a linear perspective. The photograph captures a moment frozen in time. The viewers are left contemplating whether this image exists in the past, present, or future; yet, we can easily see all options. These islands can exist in the past, a moment in time where humanity had yet to seize influence on the natural landscape as indicated by the purity of the white stone, or it can be in the present, depicting the consequence of human interaction with the environment by the cobalt blue sea that seems to be consuming the islands. Alternatively, Gursky, while photographing, intends to blend the lines between past, present, and future indicating the importance of balance between nature and man. The genius of Gursky's artistic vision transcends temporal boundaries, deliberately blurring the lines between past, present, and future. This deliberate fusion serves as a poignant reminder of the critical importance of finding harmony and balance between nature and humankind. This enigmatic composition, with its distinct formal choices, immerses the viewer in a thought-provoking exploration of time, nature’s resilience, and human attempt to overcome it, and the interplay between our collective past, present, and future.

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