According to a curator at a German museum, an abstract painting by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian has been displayed upside down for seventy-seven years at a number of museums.
The art piece from 1941 known as New York City I, according to the curator of a new show at the Kunstsammlung museum in Düsseldorf, has probably been hung upside down for more than 75 years.
As Meyer-Büser prepared for the exhibition, she learned that the painting had been displayed to the public in a way that was possibly not intended.
She then told the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, “In a photo from 1944, I saw that the canvas was the other way around on an easel. It intrigued me.”
The red, yellow, red, and blue adhesive tape lines in the abstract painting, which has a white background and intersects at right angles, are supposed to resemble the skyline of New York.
Who was Piet Mondrian?
Piet Mondrian, who was born in Amersfoort in 1872, rose to prominence as one of the most significant figures in modern art of the 20th century and was a well-known representative of the “De Stijl” school of abstract expressionism.
He relocated to New York in 1940, where the city’s architecture and skyscrapers would serve as inspiration for his horizontal lines, although he subsequently passed away there in 1944.
In 1945, his picture was put on exhibit in New York City’s renowned Museum of Modern Art after his passing. Yet, apparently, it was placed the wrong way around, according to Meyer-Büser.
The inaccuracy persisted when it was moved to the Düsseldorf Kunstsammlung in 1980, where it has since been shown at the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany.
When Susanne began investigating the museum’s new exhibition on the Dutch avant-garde artist earlier this year, she recognised the picture should be the other way around.
“The thickening of the grid should be at the top, like a dark sky,” she told The Guardian. Once I pointed it out to the other curators, we realized it was very obvious. I am 100 [percent] certain the picture is the wrong way around.”
The picture’s rainbow lines, which go thicker at the bottom depending on how it’s hanging, imply an incredibly simple rendition of a skyline.
Will Continue To Remain Upside-down
Despite her discovery, Meyer-Büser has decided to keep the Neoplasticism in Primary Colors hanging upside-down out of concern that it may become damaged or dissolve.
“The adhesive tapes are already extremely loose and hanging by a thread,” Meyer-Büser told Reuters. “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.”
She added that it was likely that Mondrian began his intricate layering with a line exactly at the top of the frame and worked his way down. This is why some of the yellow lines stop a few millimetres short of the bottom edge.
Photo of Mondrian’s Studio proves curator’s right
There are several signs that point to an erroneous hanging, and Meyer-Büser went on to offer the best support for her theory from yet another observation.
Just a few days after Mondrian’s passing, an image of his studio with New York City I sitting on an easel backwards was published in the American lifestyle magazine Town and Country in June 1944.
The thickening of lines collect at the top in New York City, a similarly named and identically scaled oil work by Mondrian on exhibit at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Victory Boogie Woogie, considered one of the most significant works of art of the 20th century, is Mondrian’s most well-known piece.