Vettriano blames gay curators for Scots brush-off
ONE of Scotland’s most successful artists has embarked on his turning the air blue period.
Controversial painter Jack Vettriano has launched an astonishing attack on the country’s art establishment, claiming it is dominated by "b*******" who shun his work because they prefer the depiction of homosexual sex.
Hitting back at the female art critics who have accused him of portraying women as sexual predators, Vettriano said they would like his works if they were "sexy people".
And rounding on the National Galleries of Scotland over its decision to part-fund the 11.6m purchase of a masterpiece by the Italian Renaissance painter Titian, Vettriano said: "Who the f*** cares about Titian really, other than them?" He added that those in charge of the galleries sat around talking "horseshit" .
In an interview for Scotland on Sunday by Anne Mackenzie, of BBC’s Newsnight Scotland, Vettriano said his own sexually-charged paintings have been shunned by critics and public collections in his own country because of their heterosexual content.
The largely self-taught artist, whose originals have been bought for up to 50,000 by patrons such as Jack Nicholson, Terence Conran and Tim Rice, said his focus on women and their sexuality made Scotland’s museum chiefs uncomfortable.
He claimed curators of leading Scottish art galleries found depictions of homosexual sex "very acceptable" while frowning upon the "graphic heterosexual behaviour" which often features in his work.
Vettriano said: "Someone said to me if you’d painted homosexual sex that would be all right with the arts establishment - there’s something very acceptable and poetic about that almost.
"But a homosexual curator isn’t going to want to buy heterosexual work . It’ll do nothing for him, he won’t like it, and mine is in your face. In Scotland, a man and woman just trying to get the drawers off each other, well we do love to do it, but we don’t want to see it."
Vettriano added there was a strong puritanical streak running through the Scottish arts world. He said: "I portray women wielding sexual power. But then there’re all those sort of John Knoxes in Scotland. Women who enjoy their own sexuality, sexy people, love my work."
Vettriano also criticised the National Galleries of Scotland and its director, Sir Timothy Clifford. He claimed the organisation’s recent decision to help buy Titian’s Venus Anadyomene demonstrated that it had got its priorities wrong.
He said: " Clifford is looking for 8m to buy a Titian. Who the f*** cares about Titian really, other than them? They’re all just sitting in committee meetings talking horseshit. The art world’s not about art, it’s about these b******* and their pensions."
Last night Vettriano’s controversial remarks were denounced by leading figures from the Scottish art world .
They reacted with a mixture of surprise and fury to his claims that curators’ decisions on what paintings to exhibit might be influenced by their sexuality.
Bailie Liz Cameron, convenor of Glasgow council’s culture and leisure services committee, said: "This is a ridiculous remark, and unworthy of comment."
Arts impresario Richard Demarco, who has applauded Vettriano for translating the imagery of 1940s and 1950s cinema , said he was confused by his remarks. He said: "I do not know why he has said this."
John Quinn, fine arts academic administrator at the Glasgow School of Art, said it was nonsense to talk of a homosexual conspiracy against Vettriano’s work.
Quinn said the reason Vettriano’s paintings were not widely displayed in Scotland was because they lacked depth and cultural significance.
He said: " It is 1920s middle-class dancing on beaches underneath umbrellas drinking wine. It is almost Jeeves and Wooster on the beach."
But one curator who recently displayed Vettriano’s work leapt to the artist’s defence.
Jennie Ridge, manager of the Iona House gallery near Oxford, said she thought he had been stung by the repeated attacks made on him by critics.
She said: " He has brought a lot of happiness into people’s lives . I have heard so many stories of people who started sending Vettriano cards to each other and are now happily married."
Vettriano is one of the country’s most popular and commercially successful artists. His The Singing Butler and The Billy Boys are the two best-selling fine art prints in Britain. More than 50,000 posters of his work have been sold and his prints are reputed to earn him 250,000 a year.
However, Vettriano’s work has regularly been dismissed by critics as ‘shopping mall art’ and his prints have never been exhibited in Scotland outside Kirkcaldy, his home town.
Last night, Clifford and the National Galleries of Scotland declined to comment on Vettriano’s comments. Recently Clifford said: "Some of Vettriano’s work is very good."
REBEL WITH A PAINTBRUSH
THE man who was born as Jack Hoggan but adopted the surname of his Italian grandfather is no stranger to controversy.
Jack Vettriano, a coal miner before teaching himself how to paint, has not been afraid to speak his mind or fight back at those who claim his images, many of which feature stilletto-wearing women in a variety of exotic poses and lurid settings, are "coloured in, not painted".
He has dismissed many of Scotland’s leading art critics as "nobby academics".
He has had a running feud with Prof Duncan Macmillan, curator of the Talbot Rice Gallery and Scotland’s leading art critic, who has in the past dismissed his work as "dim erotica". Vettriano’s relationship with organisations which sponsor and fund art projects in Scotland has not been much more harmonious.
He reputedly offered to sell the original The Singing Butler to the Scottish Arts Council for 2,000 in 1990. The painting is now worth 250,000 to him alone in annual royalties.
The artist has been championed by, among others, leading sculptors David Mach and Gerald Laing, the distinguished painter Joseph Maxwell and novelist AL Kennedy.
Vettriano was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of St Andrews.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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