Location: Upper Belvedere and Octagon
The project Klimt & Warhol – Kiss & Kiss, on show in the Klimt Room and octagon at the Upper Belvedere from 11 April to 31 August 2014, presents a unique dialog by uniting two greats of twentieth-century art history: Gustav Klimt and Andy Warhol. Although at first glance these artists seem utterly contrasting, their exploration of a Kiss as a subject, which had different implications for each of them, forms a connection between them and presents these works and their historical and social context in an exciting new light. The fiftieth anniversary of Warhol’s completion of his experimental film Kiss has provided the occasion to juxtapose this with one of Klimt’s most iconic works, Lovers (also known by the title The Kiss). Klimt concentrates on capturing the erotically charged moment when man and woman draw closer, yet deliberately avoids representing the actual kiss as a symbol of fulfilled sexual desire. By way of contrast, in Warhol’s experimental film the kiss is exalted and thus transformed into a symbol of taking a revolutionary stance against the backdrop of a deeply ingrained reactionary mentality. In their own ways, both works influenced the world in which the artists lived, at the same time as expanding the socio-political awareness of their day.
Warhol’s Kiss attained art-historical significance through its critique of the strict censorship of sexual content in the American movie industry. Considered against the background of the Hays Code, which until 1967 set down guidelines about morally acceptable representations of sexual content in films, Kiss reads like an emancipatory parody of that period’s commercial Hollywood films. The Hays Code limited the length of a kissing scene to three seconds. Warhol, in contrast, compiled different kissing sequences – including same-sex couples – into a kissing scene lasting a full fifty minutes.