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Kirchentag (Church Congress)

Kirchentag (Church Congress)
signed 'Andreas Gursky' (on a label affixed to the reverse)
inkjet print in artist's frame
overall: 120 7⁄8 x 85 3⁄8in. (307 x 217cm.)
Executed in 2013, this work is number one from an edition of six
White Cube.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
London, White Cube, Andreas Gursky, 2014 (another from the edition exhibited).
Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, Andreas Gursky, 2015-2016, p. 38 (another from the edition exhibited, incorrectly dated '2007', illustrated in colour, p. 39).
Ottowa, National Gallery of Canada, Biennale Canadienne 2017, 2017 (another from the edition exhibited).
Further details
Others from the edition are held in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa and The Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Towering more than three metres in height, Andreas Gursky’s Kirchentag (Church Congress) (2013) is a spellbinding panorama teeming with life. The work’s title refers to the biannual assembly of lay members of the German Protestant Church for events related to faith, culture, and politics; it is likely that the picture was taken in Hamburg. Photographed from above, Kirchentag captures the devoted as they camp out in anticipation of the coming day. An almost overwhelming image, from afar the work thrums with colour, becoming near-pointillist in form. When viewed up close, however, individual people and groups reveal themselves as they sit and sprawl across their makeshift beds. Created in 2013, the work is the first from an edition of six, other examples of which are held in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

Gursky’s pictorial strategies date from his years studying under Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie. Employing a large-format camera, the Bechers were renowned for their impersonal documentations of the grain silos, water towers, gravel plants, and factories that dotted the German landscape; when viewed together, these ‘typologies’ take on an almost abstract quality as they reveal their variations and differences. While Gursky’s subject matter differs, vestiges of the Bechers’ tuition are evident in his practice. The artist always shoots from a distance, casting his lens not on industrial infrastructure but rather on the spaces of contemporary life: hotel lobbies, trading floors, concerts, and warehouses. Uniting Gursky’s work across the decades is a feeling of detachment, a sense underscored by the elevated vantage points he uses, and his manipulation of his images’ formal qualities. He regularly stitches together multiple shots to fashion works that are, in actuality, visual impossibilities. In doing so, he has created mesmeric ‘constructions, the sheer opulence of which is unique in the history of photography’ (T. Weski, ‘The Privileged View’, in Andreas Gursky, exh. cat. Istanbul Museum of Art, Istanbul 2007, p. 17).

If once painting served as a mirror onto the world—depicting people, their environs, and stories—the advent of photography in the mid-nineteenth century changed society’s relationship to reality. The camera apparatus was understood to be an objective truth-telling machine. Yet photographs are far from truthful. Instead, they serve as translations. At its core, Gursky’s practice brings to the fore these questions of representation. Indeed, when considered in dialogue with painterly strategies, his photographs proffer new means to define human experience. As Ralph Rugoff has argued, his works ‘engage us in ways that are often highly ambiguous and even duplicitous. Time and again they cast doubt on our preconceived ideas about how photographs might represent reality and what the subject of a picture really is’ (R. Rugoff, ‘Andreas Gursky: Four Decades’, in Andreas Gursky, exh. cat. Hayward Gallery, London 2018, p. 11). In manipulating the formal qualities of his photographs, Gursky creates highly conceptual objects that probe the ways in which we relate to one another. Here, in an image of religious congregation, he casts light upon the faith we place in images, and in the world around us.

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