Gursky at the Hayward Gallery | 25 January, 2018
Two years ago the National Trust offered fans of brutalism a rare and exciting opportunity to join guided tours of several landmarks of the divisive architectural style around the UK. I chose to visit the Southbank Centre which was providing access to the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room. It was a unique experience littered with views from high vantage points, access to subterranean voids and spaces, and interesting details about the ethos behind the building’s design.
After the tours, the Centre closed for a critical two year restoration programme – dubbed ‘Let the light in’ after the signature redevelopment of opening up the Centre’s iconic roof pyramids to allow light into the galleries for the first time.
In January 2018, the Centre is reopening to the public. And it all starts with the first British retrospective of the work of Andreas Gursky – a German photographer renown for huge, and hugely detailed, photographs of modern day life. He really is an amazing artist and highly skilled photographer.
Via Instagram, I was lucky enough – and privileged – to be invited to the InstaMeet and press launch of the Gursky exhibition on January 24. My friend James and I arrived at the Hayward Gallery just before midday and were greeted by a super cool dude called Caspar. It turned out it was Caspar that I’d been in contact with on Instagram via the @Hayward.Gallery account – so it was good to meet the person that invited me!
Caspar gave us a brief info sheet, containing preferred hashtags and accounts to include, and told us to “go in, have fun, take as many photos are you want – smartphones and SLRs both allowed”. Essentially, unprecedented, private access to an exhibition of someone I admire greatly! The only instruction was to try to stay out of the shots of the countless media, film and broadcast crews that were set up and circulating the gallery.
We had a fantastic hour. It was brilliant to be back in the spaces that I’d toured in late 2015 and to see how they’d been developed and restored. And the restoration doesn’t disappoint – the natural light that floods the gallery spaces is incredible (albeit on a wet and grey day!).
And the Gursky work on display is breathtaking. It’s absolutely made for huge, large scale prints – and most of these are enormous! Up close, you’d expect to see a big drop in detail. But there isn’t. Each is as pin-sharp as it can be for a print measuring metres in width or height. The detail in the grass in ‘Rhine II’, for example, is insane!
There are iconic works like ‘Paris, Montparnasse’, ‘99 cents’ and the aforementioned ‘Rhine II’, as well as relatively new work, such as ‘Review’, which has an odd multi-dimensional feel to it. My personal favourite works on display were ‘F1 Boxenstopp I’, ‘Toys R Us’, ‘Beijing’ and ‘New York, Merchantile Exchange’.
I’ll be going back to spend more time gazing at each work and I’d thoroughly recommend you pay a visit. It’s an epic exhibition in an epic gallery space.
A big thank you to Caspar Stevens for organising and including me on the invite list.
Find out more about the exhibition here.
A word on InstaMeets
Informal ‘InstaMeets’ are popular among the Instagram community, but it would seem that organisations and businesses have started to identify them as a powerful way to gain free exposure. It’s an arrangement that works well for both parties: the individual/s gain access to something which they’re interested in and would [normally] have to pay for, while the organisation gets free social media exposure to a much wider audience, via the invitee’s shared content.
As a freelance photographer, it’s not often that I’m prepared to give something away for free. But when you’re offered something for free which would normally cost you (or be out of your reach in the first place!), I’m always willing to listen to ideas.
InstaMeets are great. No money is exchanged, yet both sides gain.