In Brief

Picture this: The new and improved Hayward Gallery

Now in its 50th year, the acclaimed art space reopens its doors with a retrospective of the world's most expensive photographer

Since launching in the summer of 1968 with an Henri Matisse exhibition, the Hayward Gallery has cemented its position as one of the world's foremost contemporary art galleries. As it enters its 50th year, it reopens its doors following a major two-year refurbishment that has seen the Brutalist building conscientiously restored to bring it into a new era.

Perhaps the building's most distinctive features are the 66 glass pyramids on its roof, which, while becoming an iconic part of the Southbank skyline, failed to deliver the right lighting conditions for the galleries below. A sympathetic overhaul from architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios retains the recognisable silhouette while bathing the exhibition space in natural daylight. It also provides views of the sky above, a feature not realised in the original design. These improvements come as part of the Southbank Centre's £35 million project to preserve the Hayward Gallery, the Purcell Room and Elizabeth Hall for future generations.

The new galleries will be showcased in blockbuster style with the first major UK retrospective of acclaimed German photographer Andreas Gursky. His work, Rhein II – a depiction of a view across the River Rhine – hit headlines in 1999 when it was auctioned for £2.7 million, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. This is just one of his well-known pieces that will be on display alongside others including Paris, Montparnasse (1993) and Kamiokande (2007), with the refurbished spaces providing the ideal platform for his sweeping large-format, intricately detailed pictures.

Often placing at the fore concepts of collective existence and depictions of manmade structures, Gursky's subjects range from a frenzied trading floor (Chicago Board of Trade III, 2009), and vast, over-packed storage facilities (Amazon, 2016), to empty retail display shelves (Prada II, 1997). The past three decades has also seen Gursky increasingly utilising digital technology to create phantasmagorical visuals, played out in works such as Review (2015), a fictional scenario, which places German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her three predecessors in front of Barnett Newman's painting Vir Heroicus Sublimis.

The exhibition will also include eight new works. Pyongyang VI (2007/2017) and Pyongyang VII (2007/2017) depict the mass games – large displays or performing arts and gymnastics held in North Korea. Meanwhile, works including Ibiza (2016) and Mobile Nr 1 (2016), measuring less than one metre by one metre, show how Gursky has adopted mobile phone technology to explore new formats.

Andreas Gursky is at the Hayward Gallery until 22 April 2018; southbankcentre.co.uk

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