Mondrian painting displayed upside down for over 70 years, says art historian
While it might be impossible to be certain about the correct orientation of the painting, an old photo suggests that the painting has been displayed upside down for 77 years
October 31, 2022 5:57am
Updated: October 31, 2022 3:02pm
One of the iconic Modernist paintings by Piet Mondrian has been hanging upside down in a museum for several decades, according to research from an art historian.
The 1945 classic abstract Mondrian painting featuring his classic primary color palette and lines has been displayed by the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, the German gallery that bought the painting in the 80s, with the thickest cluster of lines at the bottom of the frame.
However, a photo of the work of art in Mondrian’s studio shows the painting with the opposite orientation: the thickest cluster of lines is at the top.
While it might be impossible to be certain about the correct orientation of the painting, the photo suggests that the painting has been displayed upside down since it was first exhibited in 1945.
Titled “New York City I,” the painting is part of the Dutch artist’s species of “New York City” paintings he did in 1941 and 1942 after he moved to the Big Apple.
“If we go along with the experiment and rotate New York City 1 by 180 degrees, we find that the picture still 'works,'" claims the museum in the catalog. "In fact, it functions extremely well: the composition gains in intensity and plasticity."
"The density of the strips along the top edge lends the work a resemblance to its close relative 'New York City,' in which the zone of greatest density is also located at the top edge," the museum adds. "The blue strips along the left, top, and lower edges are now positioned in exactly the same places."
The museum even claims that Mondrian might have repeatedly turned the picture around while he was working on it, “in which case, there would be no right or wrong orientation."
For the time being, the painting will be left the way it has always been displayed, said museum curator Susanne Meyer Meyer-Büser at a press conference opening the exhibition on Thursday.