Andreas Gursky at the Hayward Gallery

As the first UK retrospective of the record-breaking German photographer’s work appears at the Hayward Gallery in London, the gallery’s director, Ralph Rugoff, explains why he considers Gursky to be among the foremost artists of our time.

‘Andreas Gursky is to my mind one of the great artists of our generation,’ remarks Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery at London’s Southbank Centre, where around 60 of the photographer’s works are on view until 22 April. The Hayward Gallery’s exhibition is the first major UK retrospective of the German artist, who has said, ‘I only pursue one goal — the encyclopaedia of life.’

Gursky’s monumental, digitally enhanced works depict massive man-made structures and huge gatherings of people in nightclubs, factories, arenas and other social landscapes. They draw attention to our changing relationship with the natural world, and chronicle the effects of globalisation on everyday life. On 8 November 2011, Rhein II, a three-metre wide print by Gursky (b. 1955) realised $4,338,500 at Christie’s in New York, making it the most expensive photograph sold at auction to date.

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