This Warhol masterpiece runs a total length of 50 minutes and consists of close up shots of various couples kissing. It is presumed that Warhol’s Kiss was influenced by Greta Garbo’s movie The Kiss which was screening around the time Warhol bought his first movie camera.
The shots include closeup 3.5-minute frames showing couples of mixed race and gender all kissing passionately. Initially shown as weekly instalments in underground film screenings Warhol combined the lot into one 55-minute-long kiss thus making one of his first experimental movies.
Kiss was one of the first experimental films Warhol made at the infamous Factory.
The Factory originally called Midtown Manhattan home and moved three times during the active career of Warhol. No matter where The Factory was based thereafter the concept and purpose of the studio remained the same. The only difference was the lure it had to those who would later become known as the ‘Warhol Superstars’.
Made up of the outcast and doomed beauties, drag queens and transgender artists, Warhol’s Superstars were a mix of models, artists, socialites and bohemian street people.
Those in orbit of Andy Warhol would instantly be propelled to fame during the 60s and Edie Sedgewick was perhaps the most well-known of the group. Others included transgender artists and drag queens Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis. There were also major celebrities in the mix such as David Bowie, Lou Reed, Grace Jones and famous fashion designer Halston.
The atmosphere at The Factory captured the radical counterculture of the sixties and championed the age for a freer sexuality and women’s rights. Of course, The Factory was also well-known for its ground-breaking parties and gatherings of the most fashionable sort.
Not only did Warhol use The Factory for work, he used the space as a magnet to attract people who inspired him as well as those he could as unpaid help. Warhol was a genius when it came to the production of his work. By using free thinking, creative unpaid helpers, along with silk screen production process’ he could create vast amounts of sellable work in the same way major corporations might.
The Factory was, therefore, aptly named as it was where Warhol and his Superstars could constantly create new work. Whether that be filming short movies or creating silk screen prints, there was always something going on in The Factory, that Warhol could eventually sell.
As with a lot of his work Warhol set out to encourage the sexual revolution of the sixties. The movie Kiss depicts both casual and serious relationships as well as passionate and emotional moments.
Even though censorship had relaxed by the time Kiss was first screened, Hollywood had only just allowed its first open mouth kiss in a movie called Splendour in the Grass premiered in 1961. Perhaps Warhol’s Kiss was a celebration of the film industries freedom of expression.
As the swinging sixties is often portrayed as the decade of free love, Warhol’s Kiss fits nicely into the cinema landscape of the era. The mixed race and gender of the kissing couples can be interpreted as a symbol of the times.
A kiss can have many meanings and many an artist before Warhol explored, Gustav Klimt and Pablo Picasso are perhaps two of the most well-known pieces of artwork depicting the meaning of a kiss. A kiss could symbolise the beginning, the end, symbolise love or intimacy. A kiss is a very private moment between two people and in Warhol’s movie both he and the audience encroach on that privacy.
Was Warhol trying to give the audience a glimpse into the intimate and private moment or does Kiss show a certain level of Warhol’s desire to manipulate and control his environment and exploit it?
Andy Warhol was a revolutionary artist, the creator of the Pop Art culture and a pioneer for the freedom of artistic expression. His work was born from that which the public face day to day. Celebrity faces, household goods and even classic paintings were all subject to the Warhol treatment.
When Warhol passed away his last will and testament declared his estate was to be auctioned off and the proceeds were to fund an organisation to promote the visual arts. As a result, the auction earned approximately $20 million and was used to create the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. A n establishment that has encouraged the development of the visual arts since it’s inception.