About This Artwork
In his work, Andreas Gursky often observes crowds from a distance, to capture the scale and scope of activity as people organize or fall into random patterns and disarray. Madonna I presents a nuanced view of a spectacle, both portraying mass entertainment and documenting a historical moment of rupture. Taken on September 13, 2001, the photo shows a Madonna concert that became an impromptu tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a communal remembrance of the traumatic event. Here, the musician wears an American flag, and in the lower left corner a monitor displays the Manhattan skyline. With all its sensational elements, however, this depiction of the performance oddly approaches the ordinary, through the structured presentation of orderly rows of stadium seating. In comparison, the true spectacle becomes the impact, both real and symbolic, of the events of 9/11 and their aftermath, so enormous as to be incomprehensible in their entirety.