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Closing fast 06: The Kiss and the kisses
by Thomas Wagner | 12/6/2015
Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark

Kissing is fun. New loves can’t even refrain from it in public, and even the heads of the socialist states, when fully in the limelight, used to practice brotherly cheek-pecks as a symbol of the close links between their peoples. Love, kisses and image policies simply like to snuggle up to one another, and this influences the relationship between life and art, in which in an age of permanent emotive output one all too gladly sees oneself rooted.

Anyone stepping into the somewhat bare foyer of the Austrian Gallery in the Upper Belvedere in Vienna immediately encounters an easel on which a painting is presented: “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt. It is definitely unsettling. Klimt’s possibly most famous painting, that icon of Vienna Art Nouveau and his “Golden Period”, here? Completely unprotected, unguarded, behind the main doors? Can that be? A sign next to the easel allays our fears. A little arrow points to the right and the sign says: “KISS Selfie Point”. Beneath that another arrow points to the left and to another part: “Original KISS First Floor”.

There’s not exactly a throng in front of the “Selfie Point”; but the next group is heading straight for it. If you then enter the hall on the first floor where the original painting hangs then you start to understand: The copy in the foyer is a bit like an emergency defense line. There are so many young couples in love (many of them from Asia) pushing their way in front of Klimt’s golden kissing couple, intertwined in their intimate embrace, that there is no way you can imagine the two of you taking or getting your photo taken together in front of it. Although this seems to be an absolute must for lovers and in the face of Klimt’s epoch-making “Kiss”. Because all your friends at home need to be able to participate via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter when art and life blend so intimately like two lovers kissing. It is only fitting then that almost all kinds of self-portraits, be they from an oh so distant past, are often presented in museums today under the heading of “selfies”. And there’s probably no need to mention that “The Kiss” is to be hand in the museum shop, too, in countless sizes and variations, even as a snow globe...