With a little help from our friends, we will eventually manage to track down every Warhol cover or pastiche ever produced, worldwide. Two years ago Kevin J. Kinney, a Warhol enthousiast from Milwaukee, Wisconsin – who prefers ‘old school’ crate digging at record fairs and in second hand shops way over searching the internet (respect!) – wrote me an email that on one of his hunts he had found an Australian maxi-single with a Warhol lips-cover, by a band called I’m Talking. The single has three tracks: Lead The Way on side A, Disko and Love Don’t Live Here Anymore – a Rose Royce cover – on the B-side. Year of release was 1985.
Its cover was borrowed from Andy Warhol’s 1962 diptych Marilyn Monroe’s Lips. It’s not an exact copy, but an abstraction of the left panel of the diptych. One horizontal row of lips is missing, to make room for band name and title. The lips are printed in red, as is the band’s name. The title, Lead The Way, is green.
A few weeks ago I received a message from Davide Manti, an Italian artist and Warhol cover collector from Bologna, that he has bought the exact same single, but the cover has the colours reversed (green lips, title in red). On this version the B-side track Love Don’t Live Here Anymore is featured as main title on the front cover. So I’m guessing both songs have hit the Australian charts in 1985, one shortly after the other. The band’s front lady Kate Ceberano is very famous in Australia, not in the least for her performance as Maria Magdalena in the Aussie version of the Jesus Christ Superstar musical.
Being fascinated both by Hollywood icons and death, Warhol started to make his famous Marilyn Monroe portraits in different colours, sizes and shapes immediately after her tragic suicide in August 1962. Original image for the series was a – now evenly iconic – promotional picture of Monroe for the 1953 drama Niagara, by photographer Gene Korman.
The Marilyn Monroe’s Lips diptych is a huge work with two panels sized approximately 210 X 205 cm each. Or should we say 7 lips X 12 lips each, 168 lips in total. The diptych belongs to the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
Women’s lips were quite a fetish for Warhol. On most society portrait paintings he made of female subjects, the mouths were prominently painted in a glossy red: think of Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Diana Ross, Joan Collins, Debbie Harry and many others. He even had scrapbooks in which he either silkscreened or glued pictures of lips.
Warhol once again used the image of Marilyn Monroe’s sensually, slightly parted lips on a print made for Walasse Ting’s 1964 artist book One cent life. The four colour litograph titled I Love Your Kiss Forever was printed over two pages, accompanying Ting’s poem Jade White Butterfly.
In 2013 a slightly different version of the lithograph was sold at one of the Warhol @ Christie’s online auctions. It fetched $112,500, almost 40 times its estimate.