A painting by the abstract Dutch artist Piet Mondrian has hung upside down in various museums since it was first exhibited 75 years ago, an art historian has found, but has warned it could disintegrate if hung right side up now.
The 1941 photo, an intricate web of red, yellow, black and blue duct tape titled New York City I, was first exhibited at New York’s MoMA in 1945 but hung at the Art Collection of the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia in Düsseldorf since 1980.
The way the image is currently hung shows the multicolored lines thickening at the bottom, suggesting an extremely simplified version of a horizon line. However, when curator Susanne Meyer-Büser began researching the museum’s new exhibition on the Dutch avant-garde artist earlier this year, she realized the image should be the other way around.
“The grid thickening should be up high, like a dark sky,” Meyer-Büser said. “Once I pointed it out to the other curators, we realized it was very obvious. I’m 100% sure the photo is the wrong way round.
Indicators suggesting incorrect hanging are many. The oil painting of the same name and size, New York City, which is exhibited in Paris at the Center Pompidouhas the thickening of the lines at the top.
A photograph of Mondrian’s studio, taken a few days after the artist’s death and published in the American lifestyle magazine Town and Country in June 1944, also shows the same image sitting on an easel the other way around.
Meyer-Büser said it’s likely that Mondrian worked by starting his complex overlay with a line just at the top of the frame and then working down, which would also explain why some of the yellow lines stop a few millimeters from the bottom. edge.
“Was it a mistake when someone took the work out of its box? Was anyone negligent while the work was in transit? “said the curator. “It’s impossible to say.”
Part of the problem is that, unlike most of Mondrian’s earlier works, New York City I does not bear the artist’s signature, perhaps because he had not considered it complete.
Despite all the evidence that the work is currently displayed upside down, the work will be shown as it has hung for 75 years in the new Mondrian. Salon Evolution which opens on Saturday in Düsseldorf.