Dr. Sergey Zagraevsky
Art or kitsch?
The following text
was translated from the Russian original by the computer program
and has not yet been
So it can be used
only for general introduction.
"Art is a creative reflection, playback
reality in artistic images"
(S. I. Ozhegov)
"Kitsch (there. Kitsch) - tasteless mass production,
designed for external effect, bargain".
(Dictionary of foreign words)
This topic is
difficult. As without the involvement of the aesthetics of Kant, or of historical
materialism to understand what is art and what is kitsch, and as a normal
person, not an armed regular "eternally alive teachings", to
distinguish one from another?
situations in which it is desirable to distinguish between a dime a dozen. Stroll
through any exhibition hall, and the question will arise of itself.
With all the books somewhat simpler and more understandable. Any
housewife, zachityvalis "love novels", as a rule, understand their
true value from the point of view of world literature. In school, what I go
through the literature better than fine arts...
At the movies with militants (or series), too, all clear, although this
is their multi-million audience do not become less.
Why not? This is a pastime, and each dispose as he thinks fit. About the
art in these cases it is not. Romance and militants in this high rank not
claim, moreover, they often forget immediately after reading (viewing).
There are, of course, controversial cases in the literature, and cinema,
but here even the impact of kitsch is to "come - see - forgotten.
But if you bought kitschy picture (sculpture etc.) and hung (bet) her in
her own room, she's on you will look for a long time... Maybe on your
descendants... And then what?
First: it will not kitsch, but a work of art. What a slogan for some
galleries: "we Offer art for the price of kitsch!" (Very true,
Second: it would be exactly the opposite - kitsch for the price of art.
Situation: a few thousand dollars bought the painting hung in a
prominent place, and then... In the best case - a bitter irony deceived her son
over the bankrupt father"in the worst - You will understand everything in
a week when someone you know is you something on this subject will tell.
Option forks on possible modifications of the future fate of the above
picture, but in any case, one thing is clear: in painting error in the
definition of "art - kitsch" can cost not only lost one and a half
hours, but also a fair amount of money.
Or depraved taste of the next generations... I am Sure that You read
this sentence, grinned, but still won't neglect this danger. Maybe by the end
of this article you will agree with me.
So, try to understand incredibly complex and multifaceted problem:
How to distinguish art from kitsch?
No practical recommendations such pages, broken into two columns to the
right - the art of the left - kitsch, and which lists all possible cases, of
course, will not work. But if we can dispel at least some illusions, and give at
least some semblance of a practical tool - the purpose of this article is
As usual, let's find a starting point.
The first starting point: what is kitsch is more or less clear (see
The second starting point: the definition of art is already much harder
on this subject expressed by many great (and not so) philosophers and writers,
and attitude to art, for example, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Kant, Tolstoy,
Marx, Freud, etc. so different that arrive at some common definition impossible.
We will still be satisfied ozhegovskim (see epigraph).
And what actually to do with the second starting point, not creating a
new philosophical system and not overloading its reader? Let's think.
The questions do not seem to cause: Mona Lisa (and all the Renaissance
The list can be endless, but here we are to shape a common opinion:
"the award" the great museums. In vain they probably wouldn't hurt.
But now the Commission of the Tretyakov gallery not issue certificates to each
painting sold on the Arbat, and not at all the pictures in the Central house of
If, of course, the artist, offering You a picture has been in the record
that his paintings are in the collections of the
Well, okay, tell me. Beware of kitsch - do not buy any Arbat, nor in the
Central house of artists. Go to the antique show (if you have money, go to
Yes, perhaps. But we have agreed that this article is not practical
guide, but an attempt to understand and to give some hint for those who are
standing in front of the picture and trying to understand something, not from a
big name, but that is depicted on the canvas. And the name of Repin was not
The definition of art, we have not taken out, so we will try to
understand without it.
Let's try "on the contrary, will gradually narrow the range - in
fact thousands of artists, works, hundreds of thousands, and all eyes will not
So, a very common and very dangerous illusion: "If it looks like
something from the classics, this is good."
Most often "plagiateure" artists:
- pre-Raphaelites (amazing how this modest during the middle of the last
century gave the "followers"!).
the man standing in front of a hundred thousand rehash "Ninth wave",
masterfully executed (if the hand of the artist "stuffed")and
thought: and why not? Craftsmanship is evident, beautiful, spectacular, the sun
shines, playing the waves, the wind blows, the author is a member of all
possible creative unions with such a year, what is not art?
And how many buyers are offered a faceless, standard nudity? Well, how
many centuries may be the same? And it bought the same people, and hang on the
wall, and think: "Playboy" - vulgarity, and "oil on canvas"
in itself gives a certain level.
No, gentlemen, unfortunately, does not specify. And in a hundred years
vulgarity on Your wall it to be not cease, and the art will become at least,
because Goya wrote "Mahu Nude", and one thousand one hundred
twenty-first variant of the end of XX century and will remain one thousand one
hundred twenty-first. Yes, and money for Nudes, contemporary artists, more
often than not, with the same "Playboy" redraws...
Antiques - Yes, ever going to be any pattern, but it will, and an
ashtray or table!
We moved to another illusion: the identification of Antiques and art.
Yes, it is an illusion, and it is not necessary to remember the tales like
this: "scientists have Found in the land of amphora three thousand years
of age, Achaia-groan from her shop, and three thousand years ago it was used as
a pot at best furnace".
Don't know whether scientists three thousand years later exclaim over
the Arbat dolls with the faces of the presidents, but talking about something
else: Achan over the above-mentioned objects of art has a very indirect
Age - Yes, these items reflect, and it is interesting in itself. Yes and
I am ashamed to say, at one time enjoyed the appearance of Arbat dolls - these
were the last years of the Soviet power, and from the Arbat breathed some
But matryoshka face Yeltsin is kitsch, kitsch was, is and will be, and,
fortunately, it is understood almost everything, but if buying - understand
that buying a souvenir. Or toy. Toys, incidentally, are charming, they can be
called kitsch with the sign "plus", but to art, again, has this very
We step-by-step approach to practical conclusions, and it would recall
another kitsch, but the highest order: Faberge eggs.
How much of me now, fly rocks! And yet, in itself Faberge egg - kitsch,
even if made by the best jewellers of the NINETEENTH century.
In order to stave off the flying rocks, please open the first page, read
the definition of kitsch and orehovskoe definition of art and to think, where
lush, gilded eggs taste, and the more creative reflection of reality. And what
is mass production is Yes.
Stop! - flying in my next stone. What kind of mass production? Several
thousand copies - it is really widespread? Dolls - Yes, Christmas angels - Yes,
but certainly a Faberge egg? The author would have Palekh boxes kitsch
Well, let's talk about where personality ends and begins mass.
And ends with a personality than a few thousands or hundreds of copies,
and two! And only one instance of individuality, not mass!
And this is one of the essential traits of the work of art.
A work of art is always unique. Yes, it can be replicated, but we must
understand: the original, only one, even if a copy of the author. More than one
instance - a skill, but usually not more.
You ask me: what about van Gogh with his sunflowers, which he wrote more
than a dozen?
Answer: the van Gogh on a great artist that none his touch is not a
simple repetition of the previous one. His sunflowers - do not copy copyrighted
successfully made the original, and each of these paintings created as the
original. And I don't think, keep van Gogh financial ability to hire
apprentices for a copy of his paintings, he would use it.
Finally something came. So, a work of art is unique, original, no one
repeats plagiatiruet not and will not copy... Feel like narrowing the circle?
Yes, you will notice is reasonable, in terms of uniqueness is difficult
to argue, but the uniqueness of something, too, is different. Recall, for
example, very original, if not extravagant, the Italian artist Pietro Manzoni,
which, pardon me, sealing the cans in their excrement and sent them to museums.
By the way, found that many followers, including here in
Oh, hard question. Yes, don't laugh. And if banks can Manzoni at least
brought under the label of bad taste and vulgarity branded as, what to do with
the 58-th km of the coast that two artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, in 1969,
covered with canvas? Or a series of photos of Hannah Wilke, where she captured
all the stages of his terminal illness (cancer)?
What's there - remember the "
Well, the question was, I think.
Immediately have to ask "not to worry":
- sverkhglubokaya Orthodox, who believe that the word "art"
comes from the word "art", i.e. all this idea of the devil, and no
- sverkhglubokaya historical materialists who believe that the view of
the recognized masterpieces of art depends on prevailing at the relevant time,
industrial relations, and of all the most important art for us are movies, wine
Yes to the
above categories of citizens, as a rule, and argue something useless: what can
you argue against the dogma, pronounced with the glass eye?
And the rest ask another question: do you believe in God? Or in some
higher power, governing the world by some processes? Or (descending) in the God
within us that directs our actions? Or something like that?
Actually what you believe, not just in principle. It is important thing:
do you at least in some sort of eternal scale of values, with the new values do
not deny the old and complementary?
You already knew for sure that I'm getting to the art, and I want to
declare him the very eternal values. Why not? When people talk about the
"temple of art", in these hackneyed words put just such a meaning.
So let us now from this point of view, look at the art.
To disagree with me and totally deny the existence of a unified system
of values in art, of course, possible. It reminded me of a phrase I heard many
years ago: "there is no God, and there is probability theory and
mathematical statistics" (author phrase - known scientist in the field of
In our case, it sounds like: some dice in every epoch choose from
thousands of creators of several units and record them in the encyclopedia.
"Lucky" Michelangelo - all here! And the rest of the masters, painted
other churches, just out of luck... And the buyer of modern paintings may be
lucky: indicates die on the author - he bequeaths (buyer) grandchildren
masterpiece worth a million dollars, but does not indicate - sorry, no luck.
What a variety of casinos.
I can argue, citing both, not less common, the view is now estimated at
all useless, the offspring will understand. It will be that way for fifty years
- and everything will become clear to all but five hundred altogether.
Answer: to live to only those fifty years, and it would be better and
five hundred, to see how they figured out the offspring...
Without us, it is, of course, also will understand, but that turns out
to new people come with the new psychology, and evaluate all be completely new?
But what about the experience of previous generations - that he means nothing?
Again, would "throw Pushkin to ship today? Sorry, were no longer
necessary. And hardly someone will succeed, and it showed a bustling XX
It would seem that all the values were revalued. But look:
- after the "Silver age" and the October revolution the art
preserved their traditions and only enriched them;
- Pushkin "ship today and not dropped;
- no cubism, neither abstract nor modernism did not shake our attitude
to the masterpieces of the Renaissance and impressionist style;
- the profession "art" not died and not going to die;
auctions of works of art type "Sotheby's".
Now, there she was, that a unified system of values, and if offspring
know best - it only because they go momentary passions, fashion, publicity, and
still is (or is) a work of art as such.
And no social upheaval will not recognize the Mona Lisa two hundred
grams of paint smeared on the canvas. And many, many contemporary works,
despite the complaints of the type: "Art is dead, because the search form
at an impasse", a perfect fit in this value system.
Even if it was not - not just withered away to the profession
"art", but Sotheby's would not be, and the masterpieces of time would
not grow in the price, and fell, like most consumer goods.
And even in the world there is no Supreme expert Council, which assessed
the works of art, but this scale is in us, in our intuition and art historians
together with the art market and public opinion" it only fix. Or, if you
like, it is beyond us. You can consider it a sort of divine substance, and to
believe that our perception with the help of art critics comes nearer to it (or
away). There are many options, but the most important - it is!
And how to
recognize belongs or not the product of this system of values? - you will ask.
It's common words, and more specifically? For example, all the same "
And what could be the answer? We agreed - no specific recommendations,
only a tool. Which in this case can serve as your tool, it is your assessment
It's very simple (or very difficult). Your intuition.
You, for example, that would imagine would prove it, I have a hunch that
commit certain sins (or simply indecent deeds), despite the fact that a clear
definition of sin, neither in the old nor in the New Testament, and in the next
Church doctrines of sin has been interpreted in very General terms, and lists
improper actions, no one was.
Well, the seven mortal sins! And even if list, how often do you over in
my mind this list before, or any other specific act? Of course not. But your
intuition is still something in this area is focused. Public opinion has
nothing to do with it - it's about your inner perception.
On this occasion, we recall occurred at the beginning of the century
attempts to justify the Jack the Ripper. Well, first of all, social causes, and
most importantly, kill-it increasingly prostitutes, i.e. women are bad - so if
women are not good, then Jack good? "Logically", isn't it? Only your
intuition somehow suggests quite the opposite...
You may contradict me: what can be intuition in art the man, not have
Yes on it and intuition! For theological education in most people also
come to talk about the intuitive assessment of sins). Art, as we found out, all
the temple, and any of us went there many times. And those artists (writers,
poets etc.), those geniuses, which is based on this temple, anyhow, you know
everything. Even if the school pass, let them badly. This, perhaps, is the
information base for intuitive assessments of any person (I do not take the
extreme cases such Mowgli). And if people for one reason or another, denies the
art as such - that is, there are situations when it is required to estimate, usually
does not occur.
And not to reduce its intuitive evaluation of art to the usual
"like - dislike", let's put restrictions in the form of
"individual - not individually, soul invested is not attached",
"skills of present - is not present", read what they write critics,
and I am sure that errors in perception will be less.
They, of course, can not be - and probably this is also correct. It is
not only the geniuses need recognition, and even the most talentless artists
not deserve to die of starvation. And the story sooner or later will put
everything in its place.
© Sergey Zagraevsky