January 11, 2004
Vettriano – not completely out in the cold

The Observer, to its credit, today gives another nod of mainstream media recognition to Jack Vettriano:

Anyone wishing to see an original Vettriano must travel to Scotland's Kirkcaldy Art Gallery, which has two. Last night the artist, a former mining engineer from Fife, launched a withering attack on the cultural elite that leaves him out in the cold.

In a rare interview, Vettriano said: 'The art world is not a lot to do with art; it's to do with money and power and position. Annually the national galleries are given a budget of taxpayers' money and they should spend it on behalf of the people of Great Britain, but I feel they don't.

"If they've decided you fit what they like, you'll be in; if they've made up their minds otherwise, you never will be. I appear to be in the latter category. If they were truly buying for the people of Great Britain then they would buy my work, that is as clear as day. But they don't.

'I have days when I couldn't care less, and other days when I wonder why the gulf exists. There's a snob association: when something's too popular it's regarded as a bit trashy. But I would rather my paintings sold to ordinary people, rather than being stacked in a store house at the National Gallery.'

Vettriano, 52, has sold more than three million poster reproductions around the world and earns an estimated £500,000 a year from the royalties. The works themselves disappear from public view into the hands of private collectors, with buyers including Hollywood star Jack Nicholson, composer Sir Tim Rice and British actor Robbie Coltrane.

You can see how the Official Galleries would hate such a person. Vettriano doesn't need them. He'd like their recognition, but is damned if he'll beg for it. After all, he thinks he's better than they are. And they think they're better than him. A classic dog fight in other words.

I believe that the internet can only add to the problems of the Official Art scene, by breaking their definition of "art" into a thousand pieces. In this spirit, I pick a nice looking Vettriano to reproduce here. This one is my favourite today:


But hello. What's this?

The next Vettriano exhibition will be at Portland Gallery in 2004. Further details and exact dates are yet to be confirmed but as soon as we have this information, our website will be updated accordingly.

And just whereabouts in the wilds of Scotland might the Portland Gallery be?

Just south of Picadilly, in a little Scottish village called London. So that would be the other galleries that are ignoring him, then. And could all this launching of withering attacks perchance be all mixed up with his forthcoming show at the Portland?

Half a million a year minimum, and a nice friendly London gallery. He's getting by.

So much for the up-to-the-minute tittle tattle. The real story here is that Vettriano is celebrating a way of life, and an attitude to life, that twentieth century Modern Art quite deliberately set out to destroy. Modern Art says that dreaming of your own personal, individual future, by envisaging it, picturing it, by representing it, is Old Hat man. A picture is just a thing. It ain't of anything. All representation is suspect, and if you do it, you must draw attention to the fact that you are doing it, and how suspect it is. God forbid you should ever perpetrate, in the bullseye words of one of Barry Humphries' alter egos, cartoon Aussie innocent Barry McKenzie, "hand done photos", which are about something completely other than the process of and the suspectness of picture making.

So along comes Vettriano. He hand does photos of achingly romantic beautiful people, doing achingly romantic things like have dinner parties on the beach. They have servants who aren't complaining. They yearn. They put on make-up. They race racing cars. They are the beautiful people, or they were, or they would like to be, or they would have liked to have been, and they want to become more beautiful or to remain beautiful, or just to imagine themselves beautiful. They're looking forward to, or wanting to remember, all their I-had-my-moments moments.

Vettriano obliges. He gives his public what they want. How vulgar. How ghastly. And as if Picasso didn't.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:37 PM
Category: Modern artPainting