A painting by Piet Mondrian has been hanging upside down for 75 years with no one noticing. Here is the piece.
Despite the recent discovery, the work, entitled New York City I, will continue to be displayed the wrong way up to avoid it being damaged.
The 1941 picture was first put on display at New York’s MoMA in 1945.
It has hung at the art collection of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia in DDusseldorf since 1980.
Mondrian, who was born in the Utrecht region of The Netherlands in 1872, is regarded as one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century, and a pioneer of the modern abstract style, minimalism and expressionism.
Here is how the error was discovered.
Curator Susanne Meyer-Buser noticed the longstanding error when researching the museum’s new show on the artist earlier this year, but warned it could disintegrate if it was hung the right side up now.
New York City I is an adhesive-tape version of the similarly named New York City painting by the same artist.
“The thickening of the grid should be at the top, like a dark sky,” Meyer-Buser told The Guardian, about the unfinished and unsigned red, blue and yellow striped lattice artwork.
“Once I pointed it out to the other curators, we realised it was very obvious. It is very likely the picture is the wrong way around,” she added when contacted by the BBC.
The evidence seems to bear this theory out, as the similarly-named New York City, which is on display at Paris’s Centre Pompidou, displays a thickening of lines at the top, rather than the bottom.
Furthermore, a photograph of the influential Dutchman’s studio, taken days after his death shows the same picture sitting on an easel the other way up.
There has been some sniggering at art aficionados who could not tell which way is up and may have been assigning deep meaning to the work not realizing the error. But that is a little unfair. In the case pf representational art like portraits or landscapes, one can tell of course which way is up. But when it comes to modernist, abstract works like Mondrian’s, there are few clues.
Furthermore, there may not be a ‘right’ way at all. Of course, the artist may have imagined it in one way and created it accordingly. But from what I have read about art by experts, when it comes to interpreting the meaning of a work of art, that meaning no longer resides exclusively with the artist but is also created by the viewer, so that different people will get different meanings. Who is to say that the meaning assigned to the upside down work is any less reasonable than the right side up? Can we even talk about there being a ‘correct’ orientation?