Andreas Gursky, Jumeirah Palm, 2008
Jumeirah Palm, 2008. Colour coupler print in artist's frame, Diasec face-mounted. 250 x 170 cm (98 3/8 x 66 7/8 in). Signed 'Andreas Gursky' on a gallery label attached to the reverse. This work is from an edition of 6.
PROVENANCE Sprüth Magers, Berlin Private Collection, Belgium
Jumeirah Palm, from 2008, is an important example of Andreas Gursky’s recent body of work focusing on large-scale building projects in the Middle East. It epitomises Gursky’s fundamental theme – the documentation of the various structures and arenas which we as human beings have shaped for ourselves to live within and amongst. Jumeirah Palm is an aerial photograph of an artificial peninsula extending into the Persian Gulf off the coast of Dubai. The peninsula, begun in 2001, is constructed in the shape of a palm tree and covers an area of 5 kms square. It is ranked as one of the most ambitious engineering projects of our time and has been dubbed the eighth wonder of the world. Gursky’s lens captures a detail of the protruding landmasses which constitute the branches of the palm tree. It is a carefully constructed composition, as with all Gursky’s images, to the extent that he has utilized methods of manipulating the various elements: “I have consciously made use of the possibilities offered by electronic picture processing, so as to emphasize formal elements that will enhance the picture or, for example, to apply a picture concept that in real terms of perspective would be impossible to realize” (the artist, quoted by Lynne Cooke, in ‘Andreas Gursky: Visionary (Per)Versions’, in Marie Luise Syring, ed., Andreas Gursky: Photographs from 1984 to the Present, exh. cat., Munich, 1998, p. 14). Viewed from afar, the image becomes an abstract pattern, and the onlooker loses all sense of subject matter and perspective. Gursky has challenged photography’s inherent representational traditions throughout his career and has taken them to the very limits. An earlier and well-known example of his work is Rhein II, 1999, which depicts a section of the Rhine River. In this, as in Jumeirah Palm, the vast scale of the work allows viewing on both the micro and the macro level – an overall organising force across the picture dictates the structure of the details, be it a strictly imposed grid as in Jumeirah Palm or a more surface patterning, as in Gursky’s photograph of a race track in Bahrain I. Such pictures have a great deal to say about how we both create the landscape of the world around us and about how we perceive it – indeed how we organise nature both in how we view it and how we want it to be. On closer inspection of Jumeirah Palm one can see this in full effect, the rows of houses and holiday resorts seem to endlessly mirror each other along the artificialbeaches. The human species have continually evolved and battled the unpredictability or intransigence of nature by imposing structure and form both physically and theoretically, Gursky documents how deeply economic forms of organisation have taken root, right into the fleeting micro worlds of human survival. “However fruitful Gursky’s experiments with abstract visual forms may have been for the overall development of his oeuvre, there is no mistaking his lofty ambitions and the ethics behind his goal, which is directed to ‘the human species’. His singular achievement consists in bringing together abstraction and representation on a metaphorical level. He manages to capture itinerant parts of the world that at first sight seem to have cohesion, but which from his perspective are ‘pieces in the puzzle’ that interact when faced with the totality of the world.” (From Andreas Gursky Werke–Works 80-0, exh. cat., Kunstmuseen Krefeld 2008, p. 31)