Mondrian’s painting displayed upside down for 75 years: art historian

  • “New York City 1” by Piet Mondrian has been displayed with the thickened lines at the bottom for 75 years.
  • An art historian told the Guardian that the thickening lines should actually be at the top.
  • The paint will remain upside down to preserve the paint, The Guardian reported.

A painting by famed Dutch artist Piet Mondrian has hung upside down in art galleries for 75 years, an art historian has told The Guardian.

The 1941 abstract painting “New York City 1” is typical of the neoplastic style – lines of tape in primary colors intersect to create rectangles.

The work was first exhibited at MoMA in New York in 1945, but has been on display in the art collection of the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia in Düsseldorf since 1980.

For decades the photo hung to show the yellow, red and blue thickening at the bottom. Art historians have assumed that it depicted a skyline.

However, curator Susanne Meyer-Büser told the Guardian she realized it was a mistake when researching a new show, Evolution, which opens in Düsseldorf on Saturday.

“The grid thickening should be up high, like a dark sky,” Meyer-Büser said, per The Guardian. “Once I pointed it out to the other curators, we realized it was very obvious. I’m 100% certain the photo is the wrong way up.”

Several clues suggest that the painting was mistakenly displayed upside down for 75 years.

Another similar painting, New York City, which is exhibited in Paris, has the lines thickening at the top of the canvas. And a photograph of Mondrian’s studio, taken days after the Dutch painter’s death, shows the same artwork positioned on an easel with the lines thickened at the top.

“Was it a mistake when someone took the artwork out of its box? Was someone negligent while the artwork 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 for decades to preserve it.

“Adhesive tapes are already extremely loose and hanging by a thread,” Meyer-Büser said, according to The Guardian. “If you were to flip it now, gravity would pull it in another direction. And that’s now part of the story of the work.”

Mondrian is considered one of the great abstract artists of the 20th century. “Art is superior to reality and has no direct relation to reality,” he said in 1914.

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