This picture is large for a photograph—six by eight feet. It measures itself not against its mammoth subject but against the human viewer, and against other works of art. Gursky emerged from art school in Düsseldorf, Germany, in the mid-1980s, just as photographers were beginning to compete successfully with painters for attention and space on the walls of galleries and museums. In the process they discovered new opportunities in scale. Here the viewer is assaulted from afar by the eye-popping bands of color but, upon approaching, is invited to study in detail the vast atrium of the Marriott Marquis Hotel, built in New York's Times Square in 1985.
In fact, the picture is, to a considerable degree, an invention—a seamless image derived from photographs but recomposed and otherwise manipulated in Gursky's computer. It is at once hyper-real and unreal, an indelible image of our artificial world, made with the aid of the tool of our time.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 150.