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New Picturesque gallery open to the public

This fall's Picturesque series, "Art or Kitsch?" is now open for submissions. Rapidian users are encouraged to submit their photos of art, their own artistic photo creations and their captures of kitsch.
Underwriting support from:

What the art experts have to say

"Kitsch refers to the low-art artifacts of everyday life. It encompasses lamps in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, paintings of Elvis Presley on velvet, and lurid illustrations on the covers of romance novels. The term comes from the German verb verkitschen (to make cheap). Kitsch is a byproduct of the industrial age’s astonishing capacity for mass production and its creation of disposable income."

-Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Thanks to the generous support of Colorinc Prolab, we are able to continue our Picturesque series throughout the year. For the fall Picturesque, we're having fun with a big question that's on all of our minds now during ArtPrize 2011:

Is it art or is it kitsch?

You may be thinking, "Well I have an idea about art, but what do you mean when you say kitsch?" 

Allee Willis, who created the Museum of Kitsch website, explains that "Kitsch is anything that is so off, so over-the-top from the norm that it makes you smile. It can be an object, a place, an entire city, food, a film, a song... It can be religious, black, white or anything. It can even be a person." Have you seen anything here in our fine city that was so over-the-top that it made you smile? Maybe you didn't smile because you didn't want to admit you were enjoying it, but instead were experiencing an internal struggle over whether to laugh or cringe? Anything in the past week, say?

Yeah, we thought so. 

We also thought you're probably discovering quite a lot of amazing art. 

We're hoping you had your camera along when you made all these discoveries, and would love for you to share them in our Picturesque gallery.


Maybe, instead, the art and kitsch around you has sparked your own creative urges. Many of us are having fun with websites like Picnik or phone apps like Hipstamatic, Lo-Mob and ShakeItPhoto. Your own photos can be transformed instantly with these tools to create an image with that special touch-whether they be an artistic rendering or go further, over the top, into something not to be taken seriously but just something to make us smile.

We'd love for you to share those creations in our Picturesque "Art or Kitsch?" gallery as well.


So it boils down to this: if it's art or if it's kitsch, we want to showcase it in our gallery. We've gotten several great submissions already, like Yolanda Gonzalez' monkeys, Kevin Murphy's "Oh Hay There" or Miriam Slager's capture of "Dream Home" in the UICA. We're looking forward to seeing what other great art and fabulous kitsch our readers have discovered or created. 

Take a minute to add your own gem!

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Definition of KITSCH

1 : something that appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality

2 : a tacky or lowbrow quality or condition <teetering on the brink of kitsch — Ron Miller>

— kitschy adjective

Examples of KITSCH

The restaurant is decorated with 1950s furniture and kitsch from old TV shows.

this is what i love about the kitsch discussion: some experts love it, sing its praises, get all excited about it. others lean more towards merriam webster. there's actually been and continues to be quite a bit of discussion in the art world -over the past half century i think?- ever since clement greenberg talked about it, then changed his mind. the discussion usually goes something along the lines of how we define it, what its value is (or lack of value), or what it says about our society and mass produced objects. now, i've noticed, hipsters generally get a big kick out of kitsch. its ironic quotient is often Off The Charts. and that is good. ;) others who are drawn to it are often attracted for its nostalgic qualities. your example from webster is a good reference to that: those who remember those television shows and owning those items when the shows were popular would probably feel quite drawn to the kitsch that webster thinks is tacky and of poor quality.


like much of art, kitsch can have its qualities and its outstanding items of the genre, but it's hard to put one definition on it: so much is just not as simple as "good" or "bad."

My definition of kitsch, while close to Ms. Willis' (who is totally awesome), is much more narrow and hinges on self awareness. I think an essential element of kitcsh is that the producer is not aware that they are creating kitsch.

ironic kitsch is not kitsch, it is camp.