Centre Georges Pompidou was produced in a small size (114 x 699 mm) in an edition of sixty for Parkett, the Swiss art journal. The print owned by Tate, however, is one of two artist’s proofs of the work on a much larger scale. The photograph depicts the mezzanine exhibition hall at the Centre Pompidou in Paris during an exhibition of the work of architects Herzog & de Meuron in 1995. Herzog & de Meuron were the architects of Tate Modern. In 2000, the year the gallery opened to the public, they presented this print to the Collection.
In the foreground a long display table traverses the width of the image, emphasising the horizontality of the picture plane. Behind it a series of parallel display tables recedes into the distance. The protective Perspex covering the displayed documents renders the surface of the tables reflective of parallel rows of fluorescent light tubes above. The strip lights and exposed ventilation shafts on the ceiling of the exhibition hall echo the linear placement of the long tables, reinforcing the horizontal focus and deep single-point perspective of the image. Visitors to the exhibition stand over the vitrines and look at architectural models displayed on low level plinths. The neutral colours of the industrial carpet and display cases are broken by flashes of yellow and red in the clothing of the museum visitors.
Between 1981 and 1986 Gursky studied fine art photography under Bernd and Hilla Becher (born 1931 and 1934 respectively) in the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, where his fellow students included Thomas Ruff (born 1958) and Candida Höfer (born 1944). Since completing his studies, Gursky has made work that falls within several broad themes, including work, leisure, landscape and architecture. In the 1990s he made a series of photographs in factories that highlighted the unique beauty of the forms and patterns of industrial machinery. Centre Georges Pompidou mimics some of the effects of these factory pictures. The industrial architecture of the Centre Pompidou with its exposed fittings recalls a factory interior. The Herzog & de Meuron exhibition, designed by Swiss artist Remy Zaugg (born 1943), is composed of simple, utilitarian forms reminiscent of a production line. The exhibition visitors, like the workers in Gursky’s factory pictures, are viewed not as individuals but rather as elements in the overall composition.
The image also relates to other photographs by Gursky taken in museums and galleries. These include Turner Collection, 1995 and Untitled VI, 1997, which show, respectively, a series of landscapes by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) in the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) and One (Number 31, 1950), 1950 by Jackson Pollock (1912-56) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Centre Georges Pompidou is unique in Gursky’s depiction of art museums in that it includes visitors in a gallery space. In this respect it resembles photographs of museum-goers by his contemporary Thomas Struth (born 1954; see National Gallery I, London 1989, 1989, Tate P77661).
Peter Galassi, Andreas Gursky, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001.
Andreas Gursky, Veit Görner and Annelie Lütgens, Andreas Gursky: Fotografien 1994-1998, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, 1998, reproduced p.51 in colour.
Fiona Bradley, Greg Hilty and Lewis Biggs, Andreas Gursky: Images, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery Liverpool, 1995, reproduced p.13 in colour.