Art aficionados know that Piet Mondrian’s work is open to interpretation. The artist, regarded as one of the greatest of the 20th century, is known for his abstract pieces that are made up of simple geometric elements. They’re so abstract that one piece has probably been hanging upside down for the past 77 years.
The work is called New York City I and features a white canvas with straight lines in red, yellow, blue, and black made from tape. Rumblings of its orientation began in 2021 when artist Francesco Visalli wrote to a German museum.
According to the New York Times, he said, “Whenever I look at this work, I always have the distinct feeling that it needs to be rotated 180 degrees. I realize that for decades it has been observed and published with the same orientation, yet this feeling remains pressing.”
Visalli even sent in evidence. He sent in a photo from the magazine Town & Country of Mondrian’s studio after his death, and it featured New York City I on an easel. It was flipped.
The Guardian reports that curator Susanne Meyer-Büser did research and came to the same conclusion. She said, “The thickening of the grid should be at the top, like a dark sky. Once I pointed it out to the other curators, we realized it was very obvious. I am 100% certain the picture is the wrong way around.”
In New York City, another Mondrian piece, the thickening lines are at the top.
There are experts, however, who are not convinced. According to Caro Verbeek, an art historian at a Dutch university, Mondrian is known to flip pieces even as he worked on them. New York City I is an unfinished work and there’s no signature to the piece.
Despite the debate, the painting will continue to be exhibited as it is. Meyer-Büser said, “The adhesive tapes are already extremely loose and hanging by a thread. 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.”
Mondrian is also known for the works Broadway Boogie-Woogie, Gray Tree, and Victory Boogie-Woogie.
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