Andreas Gursky, master of the contemporary sublime

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HE SPENT his childhood sitting on the sofa set in his father’s commercial photography studio. Immersed in the advertising aesthetic, and surrounded by “photographic equipment everywhere, bright red Agfa and yellow-orange Kodak cartons and a chemical smell”, Andreas Gursky says he used to rifle through the “treasure-trove of equipment” for “anything that looked like it might be fun to play with”. With a portrait photographer for a grandfather, too, it is unsurprising that Mr Gursky later stated that his vocation was “not a conscious decision”.

In the 1980s he studied at the renowned Düsseldorf Academy under Bernd and Hilla Becher. A German conceptual-art duo, they shot industrial buildings and arranged them into grids, like the kind of pictures you find scientifically categorising a plant species. These formative years encouraged a new perspective on the artistic subject, and Mr Gursky quickly became a master of the hyperreal. His works look like they document reality as it is, but instead use technical trickery and skill to…Continue reading

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