~ article by Danie Bester


Andreas Gursky’s, Rhein II was sold at Christie’s, New York for a whopping 4.3 Million USD on November 8, 2011. This makes it the world’s most expensive photograph to date!

Andreas Gursky, Rhein II

Andreas Gursky’s photograph, Rhein II is the world’s most expensive photo date and was sold for 4.3 Million USD

The large format c-print mounted on plexiglass is about 3 meters wide and depicts a minimalistic scene of the river Rhine in muted greys and vibrant greens. John Fox, our Fine Art teacher at DPC, describes it as a “dispassionate” scene by a photographer known for his dispassionate, or impersonal style. Gursky, who was born in 1955 in Leipzig was the only son of a commercial photographer and learned his trade before he finished High School. He also studied under master German photographer, Otto Steinert. His style was apparently affected by his teachers, Hilla and Bernd Becher who photographed architecture and industrial machinery. This can be seen in his almost clinical, distant approach and accurate compositions. John Davies, the British landscape photographer, also influenced him strongly.

You don’t have to like it

Showing his image to our fine art photography students, the result is mostly Whoaaa. Nooo! Some don’t even like it at all. In the art world, however, this almost abstract landscape is often described as enigmatic and regarded as a technical masterpiece.

Whether you like it or not, one thing is for sure; Gursky’s photograph has set the art world alight and fetching a price tag of $4.3 Million means that the art world does pay attention to photography. Still not on equal footing with fine art paintings and a far cry from the world’s most expensive paintings, we can rest assure that fine art photography is getting there…

Gursky’s fourth place

Gursky also holds the position for the fourth most expensive photograph(s), which consists of two photographs of a 99 Cent shop, mounted on acrylic glass. Here’s Wikipedia’s list of the most expensive photographs. I am listing the five most expensive photographs up to now:

1. Andreas Gursky, Rhein II (1999) $4,33 Million

2. Cindy Sherman, Untitled #96 (1981) $3.89 Million

3. Jeff Wall, Dead Troops Talk (1986) $3.66 Million

4. Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent Diptychon (2001) $3.34 Million

5. Edward Steichen, The Pond-Moonlight (1904) $2.92 Million