November 5th, 2023

Written by Eileen Treasure, Manager

Recently I read an interesting article in ArtNet News, “An Eagle-Eyed Hilma af Klint Fan Claims That Tate Hung a Painting Upside Down.” I adore this Swedish artist from the early 20th Century, so her name and the headline caught my attention right away.

Hilma af Klint, The Swan no. 14 (1914-15). Photo courtesy of the Hilma af Klint Foundation from the ArtNet News article.

If “The Swan no. 14” doesn’t look familiar, here is one of her florals from a series of ten large (over 11 feet tall) paintings depicting the stages of life created in 1907.

Hilma af Klint, The Ten Largest, No. 6, 1907

Here at Gallery MAR, we frequently (and with the artist’s blessing!) hang paintings upside down or quarter turned. Artist’s wishes should be respected, and if you read the Klint article, Hilma used colors in a symbolic way with deep meaning, so placing them in the wrong order would be blasphemous (pink represents spiritual love and should always be above blue and yellow).

Clients often ask, “Can this be turned the other way?” With our abstract artists, we say, “Yes you can turn this around however it works for you and your space.” Michael Kessler generally signs the back of his paintings in his preferred orientation, but he works the painting in every direction to ensure it can be placed in however the client wishes. Our website features pieces in the artist’s preferred orientation.

Take a look at these Photoshopped paintings in two different directions, and see if you agree both orientations work.

“An Oasis of the Spirit,” by Samantha da Silva, measures 60″ x 48″.

Here is local artist, Samantha da Silva’sAn Oasis of the Spirit.” Do you find a different meaning in each orientation?

“An Oasis of the Spirit,” by Samantha da Silva, incorporates natural, Utah elements like sand and sawdust.


Michael Kessler’s “Lockets (1)” is 77″ x 55″. The marriage of earth and architecture are on display in design and color palette.

Bringing together the natural earth and architectural structure has been a successful theme for Santa Fe artist, Michael Kessler. Randomly created wet-on-wet textures here are controlled through shape and design. The unity of opposite elements is brilliantly displayed.

Lockets (1)” by Michael Kessler as a vertical. Artwork over a sofa doesn’t necessarily have to be the cliche sofa-art horizontal orientation, especially if the wall is both wide and tall.


This fascinating and unique Kessler, “Reachout (5),” shown here in Michael’s preferred orientation. It measures 77″ x 55″.

Reachout (5)” is a very organic design from Michael Kessler and shows more movement as a vertical vs. the horizontal display which is more tree-like. The viewer contemplates whether this is a branch blowing in the wind or perhaps a satellite image of earth? What do you see?

“Reachout (5)” shown horizontal. Centering the painting over an asymmetrical sectional balances this side of the room and is a more natural orientation.

Now for a square painting, “Spiral Nebula,” new from Laura Wait.  It is a diptych and by turning the panels so they are each horizontal makes the design read a little differently.

Laura Wait’s “Spiral Nebula,” shown in the artist’s preferred orientation. It is a 60″ x 60″ diptych.


“Spiral Nebula,” turned, so each panel is horizontal, but the overall format stays the same 60″ x 60″. The design can have slightly different interpretations depending on the orientation.

Nina Tichava’s work also brings together nature and architecture. In her botanical series such as “In Soft Rustles, In Reflected Light,” the theme of  Aspen leaves fluttering across the format can work in either direction, don’t you think?

Nina Tichava’s “In Soft Rustles, In Reflected Light” is 48″ x 36″ and shown here as a horizontal.


Tichava’s “In Soft Rustles, In Reflected Light,” in the artist’s preferred orientation.

There’s a story about French Impressionist, Edgar Degas visiting a collector’s home to see one of his paintings. Degas disliked the frame the collector had chosen for the piece and promptly lifted it off the wall and took it home–feeling the collector no longer deserved to have his work. No such thing with our artists! Whether you decide to frame or not or rotate the painting, it should work for you and your space.

Gallery MAR is open every day to answer your questions about artwork, and we love to play around with Photoshopping possibilities onto your walls. Let’s talk about what could be upside down in your home.