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Artist tops up Pompidou’s collection

Andreas Gursky donates iconic work of Communist HQ in Paris

Gursky's PCF, 2003

paris. Andreas Gursky has donated PCF, his photograph of the headquarters of the French Communist Party, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, to the Centre Pompidou with the party’s support. The German photographer made his graphic, abstracted image of the modernist building’s cupola in 2003.

“I understand that museums don’t have the money to buy expensive art,” said Gursky, adding: “It’s a very important work and has been shown in all my major exhibitions all over the world. It continues my approach to abstract images of great houses which I started in the early 1990s.”

“Andreas is very open to supporting museums and institutions that have collections or curators that supported him early [in his career], but can no longer afford to buy his work now,” said Monika Sprüth of Sprüth Magers (K16), who represents the artist.

The donation was organised by Werner Spies, a former director of the Centre Pompidou, who suggested the idea to Gursky. It is the seventh work by the photographer to enter the museum’s collection, which includes 99 Cents (2001)—an edition of which was sold by Sotheby’s in 2007 for £1.7m—and earlier works. “It complements the collection very well and shows the variety and diversity of Gursky’s work,” said Alain Seban, president of the Centre Pompidou.

Gursky spent one day photographing the cupola of the Parti Communiste Français in eastern Paris. Niemeyer, a communist, designed the building for free. It was built in 1970 and the concrete cupola, which is covered in hundreds of metallic strips and neon lights, was built in 1978.

“I saw a photograph in a newspaper and it gave me the idea of asking the Parti Communiste if I could photograph it,” Gursky explained. “When I entered this space, I was absolutely overwhelmed because it’s a really great building,” adding: “I’m quite often asked by famous architects if I could photograph their buildings and in general I don’t accept commissions.”

Gursky, who studied under Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, has increasingly used post-production techniques to digitally manipulate his photographs; PCF was made when he had just started embracing these developments. “Ninety-eight percent of it is a straight photograph, and there are very, very small corrections,” Gursky said. “You need some information to know what’s going on in the image but if you’ve got the information then you believe the image because it’s not exaggerated or surreal. It’s a very unusual place.”

Gursky added that the Parti Communiste Français would receive a smaller PCF image. Addressing Alain Hayot, in charge of the party’s cultural sector, Gursky said: “If you agree, I will come back and look at the building and how it looks now after the restoration [in 2006] and maybe we can do another work.”

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