How do we define kitsch? How to distinguish kitsch from art? The English Wikipedia helps us on this issue. It defines ‘kitsch’ as “an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art or a worthless imitation of art of recognized value. The concept is associated with the deliberate use of elements that may be thought of as cultural icons while making cheap mass-produced objects that are unoriginal. Kitsch also refers to the types of art that are aesthetically deficient (whether or not being sentimental, glamorous, theatrical, or creative) and that make creative gestures which merely imitate the superficial appearances of art through repeated conventions and formulae. Excessive sentimentality often is associated with the term.”
And in continuation: “The contemporary definition of kitsch is considered derogatory, denoting works executed to pander to popular demand alone and purely for commercial purposes rather than works created as self-expression by an artist. The term is generally reserved for unsubstantial and gaudy works that are calculated to have popular appeal and are considered pretentious and shallow rather than genuine artistic efforts.”
There appears some relation between ‘kitsch’ and market oriented-ness, so to simplefy, more market leads to more kitsch. Some artists have made big fortunes producing ‘kitsch’. In his column of 29/10/12 (Volkskrant), the Dutch philosopher Maxim February characterised ‘kitsch’ as the overlap of expectation and fulfilment, as repetition, as the absence of innovation and true originality.
Well, does this help? A lot of other concepts have been used here that require some definition or clarification. Responding to Februari for instance: where is the dividing line between innovation and repetition? Between originality and cliché? Well, we have just one interpretation here. And there is the Kantian, Hegelian, Marxist and postmodernist versions, some more positive about the concept as others. You can read about them in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitsch. Boundaries between art and kitsch are thin and diffuse, especially in postmodernism. As there is significant popular interest, there is a lot of business in kitsch. Should kitsch have a negative derogatory connotation? Why not accept it as a sort of alternative form of popular, or populist art, less serious perhaps, but still somehow valid.