TITLE: "Le Bateau (The Boat)"
ARTIST: Henri Matisse
WHY WE CHOSE IT: Fifty years ago today, on October 18, 1961, “The Last Works of Henri Matisse” opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. For 47 days, an estimated 116,000 people visited the exhibition, yet nobody noticed the problem with one particular work of art hanging in a corner on the museum’s ground floor.
It wasn’t until Sunday, December 4, towards the close of the exhibition, that a stockbroker named Genevieve Habert, pointed out the mistake. That day, on her third visit to the show, she realized Matisse’s Le Bateau was hanging upside-down! Even the artist’s son, dealer Pierre Matisse, hadn’t detected the error.
Habert alerted a museum guard—who didn’t believe his colleagues would’ve made such a mistake—so she later informed the New York Times, who in turn notified Monroe Wheeler, the MoMA’s Director of Exhibitions and Publications. As a result, the gouache was properly rehung on Monday. At the time, Habert said she felt that the artist “would never put the main, more complex motif on the bottom and the lesser motif on the top.”
SOURCE: Museum of Modern Art