“Rhein II,” a photograph of Germany’s iconic river executed in 1999 and signed by photographer Andreas Gursky, was sold under the hammer at Christie’s New York for the world-record-setting price of US$4,338,500 (equivalent to P187,813,665).
The 73 x 143 in. (185.4 x 363.5 cm.) color print face-mounted to Plexiglas was acquired from Galerie Monika Sprüth, Cologne, by “a distinguished German collector” off the auction block on Nov. 9.
The new title-holder beat out “Untitled #96″ (1981) by Cindy Sherman, which sold just last May for $3,890,500.
In a statement posted on Christie’s website, the photograph was described as a “breathtaking masterpiece of scale and wonderment, as well as the icon of Andreas Gursky’s pioneering photographic oeuvre” that “enwraps the viewer in the sheer beauty of its scene.”
“Reaching out towards infinity, the work invokes a contemporary take on the ‘sublime’ with the astounding perfection of line and color achieved through the invocation of an apparently natural landscape,” the statement continued.
Christie’s described the work as thus: “For Gursky, as for many of his art historical predecessors, the Rhine is of almost totemic significance. One of the longest rivers in Europe, it carves an exceptionally straight course, passing through six different countries including the artist’s home town of Düsseldorf before reaching its confluence with the North Sea. Spanning the full width of the epic picture plane, the Rhine’s captivating, riverine landscape appears vibrant with bands of bright, emerald green grass and slivery water, the ripples across the surface of the river illuminated with brilliant, hyper-real detail. Above the straight course of the river lies an atmospheric, blue-grey sky, thick with dense clouds, which almost bisects the composition, presenting a distant, unobtainable horizon far beyond the lush riverbank.”
Christie’s cited quotations from Gursky explaining how he came up with his opus.
“I wasn’t interested in an unusual, possibly picturesque view of the Rhine, but in the most contemporary possible view of it,” Gursky was quoted in L. Cooke’s “Andreas Gursky: Visionary (Per)Versions.”
Christie’s also cited a quotation from the photographer as published in A. Ltgens’ “Shrines and Ornaments: A Look into the Display Cabinet.”
“There is a particular place with a view over the Rhine which has somehow always fascinated me, but it didn’t suffice for a picture as it basically constituted only part of a picture. I carried this idea for a picture around with me for a year and a half and thought about whether I ought perhaps to change my viewpoint,” Gursky had said. “In the end I decided to digitalize the pictures and leave out the elements that bothered me.”
The artwork is number one from an edition of six, the others being in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Tate Modern in London, and the Glenstone Collection in Potomac. —Marlon Anthony Tonson/KBK, GMA News