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This painting was displayed upside down for over 75 years. Finally, someone noticed

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Hey, Juana. Are you a fan of abstract art?

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

I mean, it's nice, but I got to be honest. I sometimes find it disorienting. Like, what am I actually looking at here?

CHANG: I know. I feel like everyone pretends to find something profound in it, but a lot of people, even so-called experts, find it disorienting.

SUMMERS: What do you mean?

CHANG: Well, it turns out an artwork by Piet Mondrian has been displayed upside down for more than 75 years.

SUMMERS: OK, I'm an amateur, so that is something I would do. But how did that happen?

CHANG: Well, you can't totally blame them. You see; like, the artwork is a bunch of perpendicular strips of adhesive tape in red, blue and yellow. It's, like, a colorful grid.

SUMMERS: So that doesn't sound like it has an obvious top or bottom to it.

CHANG: Right.

SUMMERS: So how did they figure out that the top was the bottom?

CHANG: Well, Susanne Meyer-Büser noticed the mistake. She's an art curator in Dusseldorf, Germany. And she talked to Reuters about the work.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUSANNE MEYER-BUSER: (Speaking German).

CHANG: She says that based on the way these colorful strips of tape were applied to the canvas, Mondrian must have worked on this the other way around, and therefore, the art is actually hanging upside down.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MEYER-BUSER: (Speaking German).

SUMMERS: Wow, that is some incredible detective work. So...

CHANG: I know.

SUMMERS: Are they going to flip it around?

CHANG: Well, actually, no, because the curator says gravity could actually damage these delicate tape strips.

SUMMERS: All right. Well, I guess we're just all going to have to flip ourselves over and do handstands in front of this painting to check it out.

CHANG: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF PHARRELL'S "I REALLY LIKE YOU (INSTRUMENTAL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt is a news assistant for All Things Considered who is based in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science. Before coming to NPR, Levitt worked in the solar energy industry and for the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. He has also travelled extensively in the Middle East and speaks Arabic.
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.