Used improperly as a synonym for "bad taste", the term "kitsch" refers to one of the most important aesthetic categories of the last century. This book describes its genesis and historical development in three major stages. In the first stage, stretching from 1900 to the middle of the 20th century, kitsch is an ethical problem, an evil intrinsic to the art system that generated veritable behaviour models. The second stage coincides with the advent of mass culture, in which kitsch is a feature of increasingly shared experiences of cultural consumption. In the final stage, the language of kitsch overlaps with the very definition of post-modernity and the hybrid practices of contemporary art, including camp and trash.
Andrea Mecacci teaches Aesthetics at the University of Florence.