The 20th Lewes and District Artwave Festival was launched at the former home of the county town’s most notorious work of art.
French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s controversial The Kiss was commissioned in 1900 by Edward Perry Warren, an eccentric American collector.
He lived at Lewes House, on School Hill, with his collection of Greek antiquities and his lover John Marshall.
The giant marble sculpture of two naked lovers locked in embrace arrived in Lewes in 1904 and, because of its sheer bulk, Warren placed it in the coach house at the back of his home.
In 1914 the sculpture was loaned to Lewes Town Council and put on public display in the Town Hall. A number of puritanical local residents, led by formidable headmistress Miss Kate Fowler Tutt, objected to the erotic nature of what is today considered one of the world’s finest works of art.
They were particularly concerned that it might encourage the ardour of the large number of soldiers who were billeted in the town at that time, and successfully campaigned to have the sculpture draped and screened from public view.
It was returned to Lewes House in 1917 where it remained stored in the coach house for 12 years until Warren’s death in 1929.
The Kiss returned briefly to Lewes in 1999 when it was the centrepiece of an exhibition of Rodin’s works.
Artwave 2013 was launched at Lewes House, now the home of Lewes District Council, at the August meeting of Lewes Arts. Guests were welcomed by the council’s Chair, Cllr Michael Chartier, and the lead member for Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Cllr Rob Blackman.
They watched The Kiss Comes Home, a film by Lewes artist and film-maker Mick Hawksworth about the five-month return of the statue.
This year more than 400 artists are showing works in more than 100 venues throughout the Lewes district from tomorrow (Saturday) until September 8.
And 2013 sees the start of an annual Lewes Art Fair at the Town Hall. It will take place tomorrow from 10am-5pm. An exciting programme of events will include live action painting by Pete Fowler, an exhibition of psychedelic glass windows by Luke Insect and the work of some 60 artists and craft exhibitors.
Artwave is co-ordinated by Lewes District Council and is a not-for-profit visual arts festival promoting the wealth of creativity to be found in the district. Cllr Blackman said: “It’s great that in these straightened times we can continue to support and invest in Artwave. This promises to be the best Artwave ever so do go along and see what’s on offer.”