Chicago Board of Trade II

Collected Works: Art


Chicago Board of Trade II

by Andreas Gursky

View an image of the artwork

Behold Chicago’s Board of Trade, a colossal coliseum crammed full of brokers, battling it out to emerge as the day’s biggest earner. Some shout, some gesticulate wildly, some stare solemnly at screens. The rows of seats that encircle the pit are filled not by a jeering audience but by hunched desk-monkeys. Ancient Roman brutality may be consigned to history, but the mercilessness of capitalism does not make for a pretty picture either.

Then again, seen from a distance, Andreas Gursky’s Chicago Board of Trade II does look a pretty picture. The further back one stands, the more the specifics move out of focus, and the photograph’s vibrant disorder comes to resemble a Jackson Pollock canvas. The primary material here, though, is not dripped paint but scattered people, clothed in colour and strewn in space.

This effect is exacerbated by Gursky’s digital manipulation and merging of multiple photographs. Blurred boundaries connote the elapsing of time, while several sections are double-exposed, producing a sense of flurried motion. The image’s elevated angle and fraught perspective confound the viewer, heightening the reality of the trading floor by amplifying both its bustling activity and its visual clutter.

And clutter there is. Tattered papers line the floor. Bright blazers clump together in hordes of orange, yellow, and blue. Stacked monitors display images as chaotic as the scene surrounding them. Perhaps in honour of the unruly, unstoppable stock market depicted, Gursky hints at pattern here but ultimately offers only entropy. In its frenetic movement and frenzied pace, Chicago Board of Trade II forms an exuberant, technicolour ode to the busyness of business.

Words by John Wadsworth

More to discover

You can visit Andreas Gursky's official website here, and read more about Chicago Board of Trade II on the Tate website. Guy Lane has interviewed the artist for Foto8, as has Nancy Tousley for Canadian Art. Ben Luke has written an article on 10 things you should know about Gursky for the London Evening Standard.

Question of the day

What artworks about working or business would you recommend, and why?
Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

Also on Silent Frame