Tales from a (perfectly straight and very expensive) riverbank

Andreas Gursky, Rhine II, 1999

More than a decade later, I still vividly remember seeing Andreas Gursky’s 1996 photograph Rhine for the first time. I knew Gursky’s work quite well – though it was, and is, always exciting to see them in real life – but I didn’t know this picture and there was just something about it. I still haven’t quite worked out what that something is but I do know that at that first viewing I stood in front of it for about 20 minutes, utterly mesmerised. Subsequent viewings of it and of Rhine II, made three years later and a subtle reworking of the image which has exactly the same hold over me and which is now the most expensive photograph ever sold at auction, having reached a price of $4.3m in November of last year, have been no briefer.


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