Artwork Detail

German, b. 1955
Inkjet print
120 7/8 x 83 7/8 x 2 3/8 " (framed)
University purchase with funds from the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation, 2012
WU 2012.0006
© Andreas Gursky / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Andreas Gursky is best known for his large-scale digital photographs that arguably changed the status of the photographic medium. While analog photography is typically understood to record experiential reality, Gursky’s use of digital technologies in the postproduction process frees his photography from indexical qualities, inviting skepticism about the supposed reality of the visible. Beijing is also exemplary of Gursky’s artistic oeuvre in that it features a site of global mass traffic: the image depicts an interior view of Beijing’s famous national stadium, the so-called Bird’s Nest, a structure designed for the summer 2008 Beijing Olympics by the Swiss-based architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron and the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. In this image Gursky combined several interior views of staircases within the stadium, emphasizing the complex beam structure that defines the architecture but distorting the perspectival orientation. As with his other photographs, the image remains ambivalent: is it primarily a study of the formal qualities of the building, compressing our experience of its interior into one complex image, or is it also a critique—of this site, and of other sites that celebrate nationalism as well as global economic power? [Permanent collection label, 2016]