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  1. Speaking as both a collector and a curator (aside from my status as an artist), the sale figure attained for Rhein II, came personally as no great surprise. Based on the past auction records achieved for Gursky’s work and looking at the surprisingly strong demand in general for photographic artworks (taking into account the general world economy), works by Gursky offer strong investment potential, regardless of how one views the artistic content. It is my belief that Gursky will continue to set auction records for the foreseeable future.

    • Price is not an indicator of quality in the art world.

      It is, apparently, worth the price as an investment.

      As an image, a work of art, it is mediocre.

      • I agree, price is not an indicator of quality, both in art and in many other things. Art is subjective, so one persons “mediocre” is another persons brillance, as has been and probably always will be the case.

        • “Art is subjective, so one persons “mediocre” is another persons brillance, as has been and probably always will be the case.”

          Well said. Having read Colberg’s article, I cannot shake off the feeling that this is a point he is missing, like so many others in the fine art (photography) world.

  2. Rob for two million I will take a similar photo out of the window of my car for you.

    • Brad, Just do it.

      By the way: I could have painted those mediocre crappy picassos, those guys sold at $ 90.000.000,-

      ps: you hear this mostly from us-americans. they mostly even don’t know who picasso or gursky is. they like rockwell, and free-enterprise-bashing.

      • Art is sold on the greater foll theory. Saying it may not be a good system is not free-enterprise bashing. Now, back to watching Fox news for you.

  3. Personally I’ve seen lots of art that I think is not worth it’s weight in salt. However art is a subjective thing. Photographs – art for that matter are worth what the market will bear.

    In my opinion Andreas Gursky’s photo Rhein II is not worthy of a postcard. If this image was to be submitted to a photography stock library it would be rejected.

    The price tag on some art is determined not by it’s content but by the story around the art. All this talk is driving the price higher.

    • stock libray pictures are the most uninteresting pieces of imagery you can find around. If that is your standart, well, you said it all. ..I don´t want to talk much more, i´m afraid the sotck libraries get broke…

  4. This photo isn’t worth a penny over 4.2 million dollars. Silly investor.

  5. This is without question one of the greatest examples of high level marketing ever in the photographic industry. It is not what you create, but how and who you market to that presents a dollar value.

    • yeah, photographers should be proud of him for creating so much value in a seemingly simple picture.

    • Completely agree Steve.

  6. Just for kicks, I’ve love to see him make a picture of an OWS protest, blow it up big…really big and sell it for 4.2. Strike that, 8.4 mil. Oh the irony.

  7. I must say…I just don’t get it!

  8. It seems this auction is giving photographers hope while the public thinks its a joke. Who will win? Will people pay what photographic art is worth or will they now draw a line in the sand? Will be interested to see what other photographs will auctioned for after this.

  9. Here is a thought. How much fuel to the fire does this image add to the idea that anyone can be a photographer?

    • +1.

      • anyone can be a photographer.

    • Quite honestly, I feel most of what passes nowadays as exciting work of emerging photographers is nothing other than products shaped to one and a same mold that confirm to me the ‘anyone can be a photographer’ fear much more strongly than Gursky’s work.
      Go out, find a young troubled woman, shoot a series from her daily life and you will be applauded. I appreciate that Gursky’s images at least don’t insult my intelligence by following their own path.

  10. I think it IS remarkably mediocre.

    Absolutely STUNNINGLY mediocre.

    Actually, “mediocre” is a bit higher than I would have chosen.

    There was a time when I might have felt some slight twinge of ‘what is wrong with me’ deeply inside my brain. I would strain to try to figure out how I ‘didn’t get it’ when the real ‘art community’ obviously did.

    Then I got to meet a lot of the ‘art community’.

    I don’t worry so much about me anymore. Couldn’t give a damn about them.

  11. Hm…I like it. Not nearly as much as I like Gursky’s other work, but I like it. I’m not sure I care too much about price tags. I’m more curious about whether or not it truly would have been impossible to make this image without digital alteration, as Gursky claims. He says he erased pedestrians and a factory, but why in the world would you take this shot with pedestrians in the way if you knew you were going to erase them? Surely he could have caught a moment when there weren’t any people in the frame.

  12. The real question is why there are not more photographs worth this much. This Gursky is not being marketed to the trained photograph collector, rather the collector who is seeing a physically big photo come up against similar sized contemporary art pieces. It is a statement piece; the statement being how much money was spent and who was prevented from winning the auction.

  13. Well, it’s painfully obvious how much it’s worth: whatever someone will pay for it. The quality of the work itself will never come into the question, it only matters what someone is willing to pay for it.

  14. To put things into perspective, the collector/investor could have purchased 3 or 4 very large paintings by Odd Nerdrum for about the same price. Idiot!
    As for Gursky, as they say, you’re in the money.

  15. Shouldn’t we as photographers be pleased to see people placing tremendous value on a photograph?

    • Photography is the medium but the buyer is purchasing art.

      • Is that a distinction without a difference? The question could be rephrased, Shouldn’t we as artists (or those of us who consider ourselves artists) be pleased to see people placing tremendouse value on art?

        If I were in the market to purchase a Gursky, then I’d feel differently about it, but I was priced out of that game before it even started, so I don’t have a personal stake in it.

        • Being a photo based forum I understand that the emphasis is on the piece being a photo, but imo, the money is based on the “Art” part.

          I like your rephrase, and I say Yes!

          • It’s just odd that Colberg gets worked up over those people placing an astronomical price on a work that he–subjectively–doesn’t value, only to turn around and wag his finger at the people who are discussing the money instead of discussing the art…even though he himself just dismissed the art as unremarkable and mediocre. It seems to me that the essay is a bit confused.

            • Hear! Hear!

      • “Photography is the medium but the buyer is purchasing art.” Well said, you hit the nail right on the head! The fact is, there is a distinct difference between an artist using the medium of photography and a photographer. A difference that in my experience 99% of photographers fail to understand.

  16. life is worth so much this photo is cheap every breath we take should coast at lest that! wake up world every thing is priceless?

  17. My opinion of the photograph doesn’t matter much in the face of the facts of this transaction. I can only be very happy for Mr. Gursky and for the fact that a photograph can command such a price in any market. I saw his big show in Munich a couple of years ago and his work seen up close is indeed stunning. This picture on the other hand…

  18. This photograph is not unremarkably mediocre but remarkably extraordinary in full realization
    that this is it. You gimmicky, slick photo hounds will try forever. God bless you. You will never get get it.

  19. Go Gursky! Keep pushing that price threshold higher, and higher.

  20. Just to be pedantic – has anyone actually seen the print that sold as opposed to the (postage stamp sized) photo?

    I agree the photo is unimpressive, but I suspect that at the scale and level of detail that the print is made it might be very impressive indeed. I mean this thing is printed at 6′ x 11′ and high-resolution. I can’t find details on how this specific photo was created, but he is known for extreme resolution composite photos. Here is some mumbo jumbo “The resolution and size of a Gursky photograph is always necessary (and this is why you cannot adequately make out the import of his work from the internet, on a screen).” from C4 Gallery website.

    So no, you couldn’t create the PRINT that sold for $4M+ just pointing your camera out the window of a car.

    • i saw the photo in real.
      – for those “mediocre & unimpressive” boys: it’s constructed exactly along fibonacci-proportions. you don’t even know what that is …
      – you can watch the developing of the photo on you tube …
      – it’s not been sold by gursky, he doesn’t get the money. picassos aren’t sold by picasso himself as well …

      • Yup. It really is stunning in person. I got the same feeling looking at this as I do when I see a Rothko in a museum.

  21. I always loved Gurky’s work.

    The photo above is monumental. It’s monumental in its avoidance of specialness.

    Gursky’s work is generally not about individualistic peaks, but always taking a step back to observe, almost cooly. And he shoots with large format cameras, which observe every detail like a robot or a merciless machine.

    Gursky seems to have the larger than life approach to everyday objects and landscape that I so much love in Alfred Renger-Patzsch.

    Pricing of art objects is very subjective, and there are much more anecdote worthy art sales than the sale of this photograph.

    It is great that photography gets more of the attention it deserves, and the champagne should be out for this sale.

  22. By the way: the above photograph was on the cover of one of Gursky’s books.

  23. Wait – am I the only one (besides the buyer) who actually likes it?!? I’m reading over these comments, and I really don’t get all the fuss. Obviously, it’s a newsworthy sale, but why is everyone so cynical about the validity of Gursky’s photograph?

    Sure, the image has a remarkably simple composition – but who ever said the value of a photograph is proportionate to its visual complexity? or how elaborate the set was? or how much travel it took to find it? or, better yet, how provocative it happens to be? Art isn’t sold based on price-point features like gadgets at Best Buy. Of course, there are plenty of examples of art being valued for its display of virtuoso talent (Mozart), or the sheer enormity of the undertaking (Christo) – but ultimately the value resides in whether either you like it, or you don’t.

    …likewise, you can either afford it, or you can’t. Yes, $4 million is a ton of money for most of us (regardless of what was purchased) – but the actual value of money is mostly meaningless to anyone outside the transaction. I have a camera that cost me more than my Subaru, which probably sounds sickening to photographers who have to stretch their budgets to afford a 5D. Of course, I, in turn, drive a Subaru instead of an Audi – the added value of which would be lost on me. But that doesn’t make Audi drivers wasteful, nor was my camera purchase lavish. It’s the same with whoever this buyer is – he obviously values it, and he can afford it. Done.

    Back to the art: I’m biased since Gursky’s work totally blows me away. At times it’s insanely complex, other times it’s deceptively simple, and often it somehow manages to be both all at once. If you think this print is simple, try his 1992 untitled image of a dark carpet floor. At first you’d think there’s nothing there at all, but then you get drawn into the intricate texture patterns which slowly pass through a soft gradient of light into the distance. Then you find all these subtle imperfections in the pattern and get lost looking at what first seemed like nothing at all. I love that shot. His methods are equally paradoxical – the frequently stark compositions clashing with a complex, circuitous process. What often must be a shitload of work goes into something that ends up so strikingly simple that, on first glance, one often assumes it’s only a detached, random observation of something or someplace that really exists. When it’s discovered that he has manipulated it all into existence, sometimes out of surprisingly little, the simplicity suddenly becomes perplexing. Amazing.

    This print certainly isn’t my favorite of Gursky’s, and it’ll likely never be as pivotal or revered in the same way as Adam’s ‘Moonrise’, Rosenthal’s ‘Flag at Iwo Jima’, or Avedon’s ‘Dovima with Elephants’. And yet, it’s far from mediocre. Like much of his work, it’s never as simple as it appears.

    (Plus…it’s huge! Something tells me it looks pretty damed cool as a 12′ wide plexi-mount…)

    • Nice. I finally finish pontificating only to find that it’s starting to get some love :)

    • I believe the art you are describing may resemble the Emperor’s new clothes. I can’t be sure what informs the cynicism you note in others, but can tell you my own skepticism is based on the market influence on this ‘art’. Certainly beauty (or value) is in the buyer’s mind, but is the art side proportionate with the (bubble) market influence? You may not be the best person to ask these questions, since your mind favors this work.

      While I like Gursky’s images, they aren’t a revelation. The work doesn’t change me or how I see the world. This one in particular is much simpler to create with the post work done to the image. In fact aside from the marketing, his work may be very popular -among the class that drives these prices up- because it says so little. What is bought here may be more of a symbol or simulacrum of what art is, rather than real art. Time will tell.

      While the auctions and collectors are making bank on these record sales, how much are the artists compensated?

  24. Come on – this is just a sensationalist conversation. Even though it is a very simplistic photograph, we should cherish the it paves the way for a more substantial piece of work by maybe one of us is sold for even more. It is called persistence.

  25. This photograph is stunning. If you don´t like it, bad for you, maybe is not your moment to get it. About prices, well, that´s another conversation. Buy i agree with the argument that sets a good standart for photography sells and auctions.

  26. This is an artwork, created by an artist using the medium of photography. There is no comparison to a photographer taking a photograph, as the vast majority of photographers are not artists and do not have the mind-set of an artist.

    • Yup.

  27. I am continually dismayed that so many people (who can’t even begin to be part of this ‘game’) seem to believe that those-who-can-afford to be part of it are stupid or just plain crazy.

    Come-on, who can afford to toss 4 million out the door; this is not some kids maxing their paychecks to buy a new car; this is a whole different world and a pretty smart one at that!

    • Are these the same smarties that crashed the world economy?

  28. Someone not familiar with Europe may not recognize what this photo is about: many landscapes got rearranged in Europe, and they looked like this afterwards. No matter if in Austria, Germany, or France.

    It was a bulldozing re-landscaping, totally asleep of esthetic values, beauty, and history.

    This photography totally captures what was going on in Europe for at least 20 years: a destructive process that made landscapes look alike across the continent. Avoidance of detail.

    And this photograph captures the sadness of it with all they beauty it can get out of a bulldozed landscape.

    It has the sadness of a Dies Irae.

  29. Reminiscent of Paris Hilton or Kardashian… well known for being well known.

    Anyone remember the art market crash of 1990?
    We have no further to look than the current dynamics of wealth in the US (and the world)… for the 1% this may be chump change. Especially when we consider how hard it is to find great art (or well hyped art) for sale. Most notable pieces are in museums or private collections. Great marketing indeed! If the dealers and auctions are to survive and prosper more “great” work needs to be created somehow. By craft or by hype.

    The purchase only resembled a photograph, what the buyer purchased is trust. Currency in this market.

  30. I sure hope Gursky didn’t sell this thing through Getty, ‘cuz if he did he’s only gonna get 35%…

  31. I think so many of us are getting carried away here. Just think if this photo was one of yours, would you like so much said about the $ value, or anything else, without even seeing the image as it was meant to be seen.
    It’s huge, yet we are happy to critique it via the thumbnail seen around the net. I think , first things first, when we see a reasonable facsimile of this image, we can draw a more informed opinion of its content, emotive or otherwise. As far as the sale price goes, it’s all relative, I’m sure the buyer thought it was worth it, and all creators of art of any description should cheer this celebration of dollar value attached. Its real value is in the experience when viewed by each of us.

  32. Getty Images, now there is a cancer the world could do without.

  33. The investor should have been told that the Rhein River is far too dirty for money laundering …

  34. This says more about the business of art than of the art itself. We need to disabuse ourselves of the romantic notion that the art world somehow operates in some sainted realm of truth and higher order thinking.
    They like a good payday like everyone else and will do most anything to get it.

  35. Thank God for Gursky…we need more of that. All i read here is that this pic is not worth a penny but based on what? How do you judge? I thought my piers would be happy about this news but all i read here is just hate…but why? Do you think is better to be like all this Alec Soth look alike? Cause that is the look we have now in the States or whatever Kate Ryan(NYTimes) and few others decide is art. Is photojournalism fine art photography or is just journalism? More power to Gursky, we should all learn from him.

  36. A photo doesn’t need to be an interpretation of a busy Hieronymus Bosch painting in order for it to look like it contains value. It seems those who complain consider the time involved to make the photo, rather than the years of knowledge that enabled Gursky to create that image. Those with formal art training will recognize the Golden Section and balance in the image. Unfortunately at this level Gursky has become a brand to be cherished and invested, but at least I can still enjoy this image in book form.

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