The Kitsch Movement
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Kitsch Painting is an international movement of classical painters, founded in 1998 upon a philosophy proposed by Odd Nerdrum and incorporating the techniques of the Old Masters with narrative, romanticism, and emotionally charged imagery. The movement defines Kitsch as synonymous with the ars of Ancient Rome or the Greek techne. Kitsch painters embrace it as a positive term: not in opposition to art, but as its own independent superstructure. Thus, Kitsch painters assert that Kitsch is not an art movement, but a philosophical movement: a superstructure of values and philosophy which are separate from art. The Kitsch movement has been considered an indirect criticism of the contemporary art world, but according to Nerdrum and many Kitsch painters, this is not their expressed intention.
The positive view of kitsch (i.e. kitsch philosophy) reasons that the term art, or fine art, which is solely the "concept" as opposed to its physical manifestation, was popularized in the 18th century by the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant in his essay "Critique of Judgement". At this point, Art became separated from craft and, consequently, from life. According to Kant, art should then be regarded with "aesthetic indifference". This definition of Art is generally held to be the correct one within dominant academic circles. Others have come to similar conclusions about the origin of Art, notably, Larry Shiner in "The Invention of Art"
"The word, kitsch, was popularized in the 1930s by the art theorists Theodor Adorno, Hermann Broch, and Clement Greenberg, who each sought to define avant-garde and kitsch as opposites. To the art world of the time, the immense popularity of kitsch was perceived as a threat to culture. The arguments of all three theorists relied on an implicit definition of kitsch as a type of false consciousness, a Marxist term meaning a mindset present within the structures of capitalism that is misguided as to its own desires and wants. Marxists believe there to be a disjunction between the real state of affairs and the way that they phenomenally appear. According to Hermann Broch there is "genialischer kitsch", or "kitsch of genius", such as the paintings of Ilya Repin or the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Broch called kitsch "the evil within the value-system of art"—that is, if true art is "good", kitsch is "evil". While art was creative, Broch held that kitsch depended solely on plundering creative art by adopting formulas that seek to imitate it, limiting itself to conventions and demanding a totalitarianism of those recognizable conventions. Broch accuses kitsch of not participating in the development of art, having its focus directed at the past, as Greenberg speaks of its concern with previous cultures. To Broch, kitsch was not the same as bad art; it formed a system of its own. He argued that kitsch involved trying to achieve "beauty" instead of "truth" and that any attempt to make something beautiful would lead to kitsch. Consequently, he opposed the Renaissance to Protestantism."
Some argue that the avant-garde, in becoming the established academic norm, has become the embodiment of this kitsch. That is, art now depends "solely on plundering creative art by adopting formulas that seek to imitate it, limiting itself to conventions and demanding a totalitarianism of those recognizable conventions."(Such as the zeitgeist and aesthetic indifference). Thus, Nerdrum's position could be construed as ironic. However, to conclude this as the primary objective would be an oversimplification of the kitsch philosophy.
The kitsch philosophy is humanist in nature and characterized by empiricism, and/or objectivism, especially concerning aesthetics. It is founded upon knowledge a posteriori, or based upon experience. This is in distinction to Kant's claim that Art (as the sublime - aesthetic experience of the pure concept) is based upon knowledge a priori. As such, in contrast with the common contemporary definition of art, the positive view of kitsch rejects Hegel's assertion that the artist should follow the zeitgeist, and further, questions the assumption of its existence; reasoning that many different ideologies, dogmas, and social perspectives exist simultaneously around the world at any given point in time. Consequently, the kitsch philosophy emphasizes individualism and liberty. It is emphatically non-political, though some argue that the movement and specifically Nerdrum have, nevertheless, been the victims of political and social persecution because of their individualism. (Also see Odd Nerdrum legal difficulties).
The philosophy originated by Nerdrum first manifested into a group among Nerdrum's circle of students Jan-Ove Tuv, Helene Knoop, Hege Elizabeth Haugen, Monika Helgesen, Kjetil Jul, Brad Silverstein, Carlos Madrid, Stefan Boulter, Brandon Kralik, Nanne Nyander, and soon expanded. Many kitsch painters were featured in and contributed essays to Nerdrum's book Kitsch: More than Art
The Kitsch Movement has collaborated with The Florence Academy in a 2009 exhibition "Immortal Works". hosts the Kitsch Biennale, a traveling exhibition which includes painters from around the world.
A list of artists can be found at WorldWide Kitsch
- 2002 Kitsch Katakomben, Haugar Vestfold KunstMuseum, Tonsberg, Norway
- 2002 Raugland Atelier, Stavern, Norway
- 2002 Larvik Kunstforening, Larvik, Norway
- 2004 Kitsch, Telemark Museum, Skien, Norway
- 2005 Kitsch Annuale, Krutthuset, Fredricksvern Verft, Stavern, Norway
- 2006 Kitsch Annuale, Stavern, Norway
- 2008 Kitsch Biennale Pasinger Fabrik, Munich, Germany
- 2009 Kitsch, Krapperup Castle, Sweden
- 2009 Fall Kitsch, Galleri PAN, Oslo, Norway
- 2009 Immortal Works, VASA KONSTHAL, Gothenburg, Sweden
- 2010 Kitsch Biennale, Palazzo Cini, Venice, Italy<ref>"Kitsch Biennale: Venice" Kunst magazine, Oslo, Norway, May 2011</ref>
- Classical Realism
- New Sincerity