- “New York City 1” by Piet Mondrian has been displayed with the lines thickening at the bottom for 75 years.
- An art historian told The Guardian that the thickening lines should actually be at the top.
- The painting will remain upside down to preserve the painting, The Guardian reported.
A painting by the renowned Dutch artist Piet Mondrian has been hanging upside down in art galleries for 75 years, according to an art historian, per The Guardian.
The 1941 abstract painting “New York City 1” is typical of the neoplastic style — adhesive-tape lines in primary colors cross each other to create rectangles.
The artwork was first displayed at New York’s MoMA in 1945, but it has been displayed at the art collection of the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Dusseldorf since 1980.
For decades, the picture has been hung to show the yellow, red, and blue thickening at the bottom. It was assumed by art historians to represent a skyline.
However, curator Susanne Meyer-Büser told The Guardian that she realized this was a mistake when researching a new show, Evolution, which opens in Dusseldorf on Saturday.
“The thickening of the grid should be at the top, like a dark sky,” said Meyer-Büser, per The Guardian. “Once I pointed it out to the other curators, we realized it was very obvious. I am 100% certain the picture is the wrong way around.”
There are several indicators suggesting that the painting has mistakenly been displayed upside down for 75 years.
Another similar painting, New York City, which is on display in Paris, has the lines thickening at the top of the canvas. And a photograph from Mondrian’s studio, snapped days after the Dutch painter died, shows the same artwork positioned on an easel with the lines thickening at the top.
“Was it a mistake when someone removed the work from its box? Was someone being sloppy when the work was in transit?” Meyer-Büser told The Guardian. “It’s impossible to say.”
The artwork will remain displayed in the same orientation it has been in for decades to preserve it.
“The adhesive tapes are already extremely loose and hanging by a thread,” Meyer-Büser said, per The Guardian. “If you were to turn it upside down now, gravity would pull it into another direction. And it’s now part of the work’s story.”
Mondrian is considered one of the great abstract artists of the 20th century. “Art is higher than reality and has no direct relation to reality,” he said in 1914.