Piet Mondrian, "New York City I" (1941) (via Wikimedia Commons)

In news that is sure to delight detractors of modern art, an abstract painting by Piet Mondrian at a German museum was found to have been hanging upside down ever since it was first exhibited — for the last 75 years. The announcement was made by curator and art historian Susanne Meyer-Büser at a press conference for the opening of a new Mondrian exhibition at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany. 

Meyer-Büser had been charged with researching the museum’s upcoming show on the 20th-century Dutch painter, whose work is iconic in its reliance on the three primary colors and its use of simple, perpendicular black lines. She noticed that the lines in Mondrian’s “New York City I” (1941) thicken toward the bottom of the work as it is currently hung, even as a very similar painting by the artist features a thickening of lines at the top. She also came across a photograph of Mondrian’s studio from 1944 that showed the work on an easel oriented the opposite way.

“Was it a mistake when someone removed the work from its box? Was someone being sloppy when the work was in transit?” the curator asked. “It’s impossible to say.”

Despite the finding, “New York City I”, which was first exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1945, will continue to be displayed as it has always been shown: incorrectly. “The adhesive tapes are already extremely loose and hanging by a thread,” Meyer-Büser said. “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.”

Jasmine Liu is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she studied anthropology and mathematics at Stanford University.

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