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Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)

Prada I

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
Prada I
titled, numbered and dated 'Ohne Titel IV '96 5/6' (on the reverse)
chromogenic colour-print laminated to Plexiglas in artist frame
overall: 52¼ x 88½in. (132.8 x 224.8cm.)
image: 33½ x 73 5/8in. (85 x 187cm.)
Executed in 1996, this work is number five from an edition of six
Galerie Mai 36, Zurich.
Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York.
Andreas Gursky: Photographs from 1984 to the Present, exh. cat., Dusseldorf, Kunsthalle, 1998 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 41).
Andreas Gursky: Fotografien 1994-1998, Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, 1998 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, pp. 4-5).
B. Riemschneider & U. Grosenick (eds.), Art at the Turn of the Millennium, Cologne 1999 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 206).
Grosse Illusionen. Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, Edward Ruscha, exh. cat., Bonn, Kunstmuseum, 1999 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 9).
P. Galassi (ed.), Andreas Gursky, Ostfildern-Ruit 2001 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, pl. 24, p. 103).
Andreas Gursky, exh. cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2001, no. 24 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 103).
Andreas Gursky, Werke, Works, 80-08, exh. cat., Krefeld, Kunstmuseen, 2008 (another from the smaller edition illustrated in colour, pp. 150-151).
M . Fried, Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before, New Haven 2008 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 164).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Centre, The Cities Collect, September 2000-January 2001.
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Prada I is one of the most famous of photographer Andreas Gursky's images. These have become seminal touchstones in the canon of contemporary art, his dispassionate gaze allowing him to reveal to the viewer the strange beauty and mystery that underpins our existence. Be it in his landscapes, in his factory interiors or in his views of shop displays, Gursky manages to hint at the hermetic harmonies that give grace and order to our lives. This is all the more the case in the pared-back and restrained Prada I, where Gursky has celebrated the minimalist aesthetic of this contemporary consumerist altar, the vast scale of this picture immersing us as though within a landscape, allowing this shop display to acquire a rhythmic quality that borders on abstraction, recalling Warhol's iconic cans of Campbell's Soup.

Gursky is fascinated by the human experience and the human environment in our modern world and chronicles it in his iconic images. Executed in 1996, Prada I may display no overt human presence, yet there is all the same the implication of commerce and, in the presence of the shoes, of movement. They also provide an intriguing insight into man-made notions of beauty. Indeed, as fetishised objects of beauty, these shoes have been presented and lit as though they were art objects, Gursky creating an intriguing parallel to his photographs of public art galleries from the same period. This equivalency, between the world of the museum and that of the Prada store, is heightened by the Judd-like, Minimalist feel of the display of these shoes, an aspect accentuated in the following year's Prada II, where the shelves are shown empty.

The rigid regularity and formality of this display are heightened by Gursky's frontal perspective; he has here eschewed the almost bird's eye view he uses with some larger motifs, yet the nature of the interior shot means that the subject nonetheless fills the entirety of the picture surface. Gursky has accentuated the formality of this display through digital means as well, extending the shelves in order to increase the emphasis upon the composition's horizontality. Prada I dates from a period during which Gursky was increasingly relying on digital interventions in order not only to sharpen, but also to manipulate, his images. Here, the Prada display has not only been extended, but has also been amalgamated: the shoes on display are from different seasons, Gursky smuggling in a disruptive hint of the ephemeral nature of fashion that also introduces that traditional notion in still life: the memento mori. At the same time, he has deliberately undermined what used to be assumed: the veracity of photography. Gursky, in undermining the credibility of his own medium of choice, has also opened up whole new plateaux of representation, granting himself free rein to add a hint of subjectivity to his depictions of the hidden orders of everyday life.