Rhein II becomes most expensive photograph, selling for $4.3M

It may not look like much, just some grass on two sides of a river, but this Andreas Gursky photo has just set a record for the most expensive photograph ever sold.

The photo, captured in 1999 titled "Rhein II", recently sold at a Christie's auction in New York City for more than $4.3 million.

"It spans over three metres in width and two metres in height, enwrapping the viewer in the sheer beauty of its scene," says the narrator of a Christie's video about the work. "He (Gursky) creates a dramatic and profound reflection on human existence and our relationship to nature on the cusp of the 21st century."

The German artist is known for his massive landscape photographs often taken from a high point of view. In this case, he photographed the Rhine River, which runs through six countries in Europe and his hometown of Dusseldorf, Germany.

"Space is very important for me but in a more abstract way," Gursky says of his work on an exhibition website. "Maybe to try to understand not just that we are living in a certain building or in a certain location, but to become aware that we are living on a planet that is going at enormous speed through the universe. I read a picture not for what's really going on there, I read it more for what is going on in our world generally."

The Gursky photo was one of 91 works offered Tuesday at Christie's auction of postwar and contemporary art. At the same auction, Roy Lichtenstein's 1961 painting of a man looking through a peephole sold for $43.2 million. In total, 82 works were sold for a total of $247.6 million.

The previous record for most expensive picture was held by the Cindy Sherman photo called "Untitled #96", which sold at an auction in May for $3.89 million.

Gursky has also captured the fourth most expensive photograph. His work titled "99 Cent II Diptychon" sold at auction in 2007 for more than $3.3 million. His work has been featured in galleries all over the world, including a 2009 exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

(Christie's photo)