Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)


Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
signed 'Andreas Gursky' (on a paper label affixed to the reverse)
chromogenic print, in artist's frame
98 x 137 in. (248.9 x 348 cm.)
Executed in 2010. This work is number two from an edition of six.
Gagosian Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2010
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Andreas Gursky, November-December 2011 (another example exhibited).
London, Hayward Gallery, Andreas Gursky, January-April 2018, (another example exhibited).


Andreas Gursky’s arresting and isolated depiction of Antarctica in Antarctic, executed in 2010, seems to almost transcend the medium of photography with its impossible scope and painterly composition. The entire continent is sharply rendered and abstracted by an otherworldly viewpoint. However, this grandiose chromogenic print, sourced from satellite viewings of earth, could only exist in the photographic medium—halted time and space that captures a striking, ethereal image. The aerial status of the satellite’s gaze allows for the continent to stand perfectly centered, stark white against the inky veil of the surrounding sea.

The atmospheric viewpoint in Antarctic lends the image an impossible sublimity that allows one to experience the awe of this remote landmass in a pure, uninterrupted form—severed from any ties to the immediate or concrete. Donald Kuspit, in his review of the original 2011 Gagosian exhibition in which this work was featured, compares the abstraction achieved through the distance inherent to Gursky’s lens as having a similarity to ‘Clyfford Still’s flat paintings, with their rugged “Grand Canyon”-like look -- wide open, seemingly endless, raw nature, with its rough and rolling surfaces, cracks and crevasses marking its space.’ (Kuspit, “Andreas Gursky’s Oceanic Feeling”, n.p.) Though Kuspit goes on to say that the oceanic wonder depicted in Gursky’s Antarctic is laden with an intense and unattainable austerity, there is within this frozen solitude a profound poetry of silence and stillness.

This stillness—attributed to aspects of the photographic medium as well as Gursky’s trademark utilization of scale—is particularly striking when one considers that the landscape depicted in Antarctic is constantly subject to change as the continent fractures and melts. The meticulous detail accomplished through the satellite allows one to observe the tiny fissures and splintered pieces of glacial ice as they slip away into the void of the Southern Sea. The image of Antarctic captures these fragments in the process of their slow release, holding them in time and creating an image that can never again exist in reality. This conundrum of the photographic is described by Roland Barthes in his seminal reflections on photography as ‘a new form of hallucination: false on the level of perception, true on the level of time: a temporal hallucination, so to speak, a modest shared hallucination—on the one hand 'it is not there,' on the other 'but it has indeed been': a mad image, chafed by reality.’ (Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, p. 115)

Swirling eddies of snow and ice that appear to steam off the continent’s rugged surface, compliment the stillness of the frame and enhance an abstract sensation of reverie. The pearly ice is laden with a pulsing texture that again contributes a tension of movement within the static. An inconceivable yet real representation, Antarctic makes for an astounding and sublime image that is beautiful and alive with conceptual nuance.

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