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Vettriano gallery out of the frame

FROM his days as a struggling artist to the height of his hard-earned fame, Jack Vettriano has been inextricably linked with the Portland Gallery.

The prestigious London gallery has exhibited the artist's works and represented him throughout his career.

But now, following a warm and lucrative relationship that has lasted almost a decade and a half, the artist and gallery have parted company.

It is not clear why Vettriano and the Portland have severed their ties, but from now on, the London-based gallery will not exhibit any new work by Vettriano and is to cease publishing new limited-edition prints.

The end of the exclusive relationship further restricts members of the public from viewing Vettriano's work, which has sold for hundreds of thousand of pounds apiece and is coveted by celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Sir Tim Rice and Robbie Coltrane.

One of the few places other than the Portland where his work was on public display was at London's upmarket Bluebird Club. But the club has decided to sell the artworks at auction.

The display at the Portland, which last year became a permanent fixture, featured some of Vettriano's best-known works and was effectively the only public gallery dedicated to his paintings.

Only last year, the Portland's Vettriano Room was heralded by Tom Hewlett, the gallery's owner and Vettriano's art dealer, who said it struck a blow to public galleries which snubbed his work.

But a statement on the Portland Gallery's website reveals the relationship has ended, though it remains unclear whether the Vettriano Room will continue as a permanent exhibit. The statement reads: "Portland Gallery no longer represents the artist, Jack Vettriano. Accordingly, while the gallery will continue to buy and sell original oil paintings by Vettriano in the secondary market, no exhibitions of new work will be held here."

It adds: "No new limited-edition prints will be published by Portland Gallery, but prints from the existing limited editions will remain available while stocks last."

There remain ten works available to buy from the Portland, which have been consigned to the gallery by private clients for sale on their behalf. Among those works still for sale is a self-portrait of the artist. More than a dozen limited-edition prints are also available.

Vettriano and Hewlett have enjoyed a close and lucrative relationship since the latter took the unknown artist under his wing and helped to chart his path to fame and riches.

For the past 14 years, Hewlett has been first and foremost a staunch friend of Vettriano, defending him from the art establishment's criticism.

The Portland has sold Vettriano originals and licensed the sale of posters and postcards the world over. Images of his paintings can also be found on of merchandise from mouse-mats to biscuit tins, making him one of the most commercially successful British artists of modern times. It is estimated Vettriano recoups about 500,000 a year from sales of reproductions.

When Vettriano and Hewlett agreed their deal in 1993, the two men celebrated at Raymond Blanc's restaurant, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.

The end of the relationship between artist and gallery comes just a week after it was revealed that one of the few other places where work by the "people's artist" is on display is to sell off its Vettriano paintings.

Next month, Sotheby's will auction seven works commissioned for Sir Terence Conran's Bluebird Club in King's Road, Chelsea, where they have been on display for the past decade. With the Bluebird having changed ownership, it is undergoing a redesign and Vettriano's paintings are no longer deemed desirable.

The small collection, inspired by the streamlined Bluebird cars driven by Sir Malcolm Campbell, the world speed record-breaking driver, is expected to fetch more than 1.2 million at the sale on 29 August at Gleneagles Hotel.

Mr Hewlett did not return The Scotsman's calls yesterday, and Jack Vettriano was unavailable for comment.

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST

VETTRIANO, born Jack Hoggan, grew up in Methil, Fife. Having left school at 15, he worked filling sandbags at a colliery before securing an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer.

Aged 20, he befriended schoolteacher Ruth McIntosh, who bought him a set of watercolours.

In 1988, he submitted two paintings for the Royal Scottish Academy annual show, which sold within hours of going on display. As he realised he could forge a career from art, Hoggan changed his surname to Vettriano, his mother's maiden name.

By 1993, he had forged a partnership with Tom Hewlett at the Portland.

The artist came in for criticism after it emerged he used an illustrators' guide for some figure drawing, but he claimed he could not afford real models at the time.

In 2004, his painting The Singing Butler sold for a then Scottish record of 744,800.

He now divides his time between London and Nice.

 
 
 

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