Having attached itself to our everyday life as firmly as a tick, kitsch has by now become an integral part of it. The thin line between good taste and bad taste sometimes seems to dissolve as quickly as a lump of sugar in hot tea. To quote Karl Lagerfeld, 'Who can say what is good taste and what is bad taste? Sometimes bad taste is more creative than good taste.' In a world of copy/paste, imitations and surrogates, kitsch is always around us. Kitsch imitates and plays with styles, textures and centuries; it is easy to consume and does not demand you to think - it is like impulsive pop corn, like replicas of the Eiffel Tower and landmarks of other great cities at souvenir shops worldwide.
Mythology has it that the term 'kitsch' originated as a slang word used by the late 19th-century Munich art dealers to denote 'cheap and worthless art'. The first one to analyse it in the context of international art scene was the Italian painter and art theorist Gillo Dorfles. In 1968 he published his Kitsch: Anthology of Bad Taste in which he claimed, among other things, that famous historical works of art, the likes of Michelangelo's Moses and Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa today have become trivial kitsch symbols that are serially reproduced and are recognised thanks to their surrogates, not for their authentic value.
Gillo Dorfles' essay also serves symbolically as the point of departure for the exhibition currently on view in Milan, analysing the various faces of kitsch in a number of thematic sections. The show closes with a symbolic kitsch merry-go-round, an embodiment of a genuine chaos of today's kitsch objects and quotations.
6 Viale Emilio Alemagna
Keywords: Milan, exhibition