Live Now on Artnet Auctions: This Monumental Andreas Gursky Photograph Captures the Disquieting Beauty of North Korea’s Orchestrated Mass Celebrations

'Pyongyang III' captures the spectacle of North Korea's Arirang Festival.

Andreas Gursky, "Pyongyang III," 2007. Available now in Important Photographs on Artnet Auctions. Est. $300,000-400,000.

Over his decades-long career,  German-born photographer Andreas Gursky has used photography to create innovative large-scale abstractions that are underscored by powerful social commentary. These monumental, large-format photographs most often explore themes of Western consumer society, using techniques that blur distinctions between documentation and abstraction. Pyongyang III (2007) strays from the artist’s frequent exploration of Western hypercapitalism to explore the beauty and formal structure of a mass celebration orchestrated by North Korea’s totalitarian regime. Now through September 29, bid on Pyongyang III (2007) in Important Photographs on Artnet Auctions.

Gursky was born in Leipzig, East Germany min 1955, the son and grandson of commercial photographers. While studying at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Bernd and Hilla Becher, Gursky was inspired by the Bechers’ systematic documentation of industrial landscapes. Gursky pushed further against the medium by digitally manipulating his works, taking photographs from a high vantage point, and splicing together multiple images to create monumental abstractions in dizzying detail. 

Pyongyang III (2007) is one of five photographs taken by Gursky at the Arirang Festival in North Korea, held to commemorate the birth of North Korea’s former leader, Kim II Sung, and to celebrate the power of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The event is hosted in the Rungrado May Day Stadium, the largest stadium in the world. Gursky contrasts the celebratory energy of tens of thousands of performers with our knowledge of the totalitarian regime behind this performance. Pyongyang III (2007) serves, therefore, as a metaphor for the dichotomies of our current world: the individual vs. the group, the detail vs. the whole, digital manipulation vs. reality.

Detail from Pyongyang III, which captures the performers at the Arirang Festival in North Korea.

Opportunities to collect Gursky’s work—especially pieces of this size and stature—are uncommon. In fact, only 10 Gursky photographs have appeared at auction so far this year. Another photograph capturing the Arirang Festival, Pyongyang II, sold for $378,000 in June 2021, further proving the demand for these compelling photographs. 

The present work, estimated at $300,000-400,000, offers a unique opportunity to add a monumental piece by a seminal artist to your collection. Don’t miss the opportunity to bid on Pyongyang III (2007) now through September 29.


Please don’t hesitate to contact the specialist for this work, Susanna Wenniger, with any questions or concerns.

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