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Tate Gallery Hangs Abstract Art Wrong Way Round

By M Dee Dubroff     Nov 11, 2008 in Arts
In keeping with knowing which end is up, right from left and other directions from one another, two paintings have been hung the wrong way round by curators at the Tate Modern Museum in London. Read all about this “misinterpretation” of abstract art.
According to news sources, two Mark Rothko paintings from his Black on Maroon series have been hung vertically with bold stripes running from top to bottom. The location of his signature on the back of the paintings, which he donated to the gallery, indicate that he preferred them to be hung with the stripes running horizontally.
According to Richard Dormant, art critic:
“Hanging paintings according to the indication of the artist's signature is elementary. If this is not a deliberate blunder, then it is a very extreme way of presenting his work.”
Despite Rothko’s signature, the issue has never been resolved because there are no photographs available to indicate for certain how Rothko wished the works to be hung. In addition, the issue of selecting which horizontal display is the correct one creates the risk of placing them upside down, leaving only one other position to dispute (inside out).
The Tate gallery has not been able to make up its mind for some time now. For nine years, it hung them horizontally, and then late director, Norman Reid, changed them to vertical on the advice of a colleague. In 1987 they were hung horizontally for a special exhibition, only to be displayed again on a vertical axis when the paintings were moved to the Rothko Room at the Tate Modern in 2000.
Is this an example of art imitating art imitating art or is it merely a demonstration of the human race unable to make up its mind?
Perhaps in this case, not even the artist knows for sure.
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