Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recognisably kitsch?

I recently finished Thomas Kulka’s interesting book on kitsch, where he takes a philosophical approach to the problem of defining kitsch. More about that later, perhaps. Until then, Vallicella has something about it here, with links.
Right now, I am wondering about Jack Vettriano. John Nicholson is auctioning some of his work next week – expect to pay between £60,000 and £100,000. Is it kitsch? One danger sign is that a significant number of hotels I have visited in the past five years have a Vettriano reproduction sitting somewhere. There is an interesting discussion here, with more danger signs. Practically every popular discussion of kitsch will involve one party asserting that “neither the Metropolitan nor MOMA have sunk so low as to be hanging X”, with the other party strenuously asserting stuff like “publicly funded art galleries [should not be] a pure platform for top-down “elite” education of the Masses” and “why are the elite curators presupposed to have better “prejudices” than the masses?” Another danger sign is “I know what I like”.

I don’t know about Vettriano. The main problem with kitsch is that it is not always obvious, during its period of popularity, that it is kitsch. It’s only, say, thirty or more years later that it becomes obviously and instantaneously recognisable for what it is.

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