An abstract painting by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian has been hanging upside down in various art galleries for the past 75 years, it has been discovered.
The work, titled New York City I, was first hung in New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1945, four years after it was first created.
Since 1980, it has been displayed in Düsseldorf, Germany, in the museum collection of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The mistake was noticed by museum curator and art historian Susanne Meyer-Büser earlier this year, after she began conducting research for a new Mondrian-related exhibition.
The piece, which consists of differently coloured intersecting lines, has been displayed for years with a thickening patch of lines at the bottom of the canvas.
However, it turns out these lines should, in fact, be at the top.
“The thickening of the grid should be at the top, like a dark sky,” Meyer-Büser said. “Once I pointed it out to the other curators, we realised it was very obvious.
“I am 100 per cent certain the picture is the wrong way around.”
However, due to the deterioration of the adhesive tapes on parts of the artwork, it is no longer feasible for the painting to be hung the right way up.
“Was it a mistake when someone removed the work from its box? Was someone being sloppy when the work was in transit?” the curator said. “It’s impossible to say.”
Because the artwork was never finished, Mondrian never signed the picture, which would ordinarily have made such a mistake impossible.