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On This Day… Confusing Modern Art

Written by: George Chittenden : 09 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 18th Oct, back in 1961 when New York’s Museum of Modern Art opened the doors to a new exhibition, “The Last Works of Matisse: Large Cut Gouaches,” unaware that one of the works, Henri Matisse’s Le Bateau, was hanging upside down.

The interesting element of this story is that their mistake wasn’t noticed for 47 days, even though the new exhibition had received a whopping 116,000 visitors, including Matisse’s son Pierre, who was an art dealer. Eventually a Wall Street stockbroker, Genevieve Habert, noticed the mistake and informed the New York Times who ran a story.

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse

The curator responsible for the installation, Alicia Legg, thought the painting was very confusing and blamed it on the upside label on the painting’s reverse side, and deep existing screw holes suggesting that it had been hung incorrectly before. The exhibition closed December 4th, meaning that Le Bateau was only displayed correctly while the exhibition was being deinstalled.

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