X-rated Vettriano exhibition carries family warning

Jack Vettriano: The popular but controversial Fife-born artist at Kelvingrove Museum. Picture: Robert Perry
Jack Vettriano: The popular but controversial Fife-born artist at Kelvingrove Museum. Picture: Robert Perry
Have your say

He is renowned across the world for his powerful erotic art and highly-charged images of scantily-clad women.

And the nature of Jack Vettriano’s most sexually-explicit paintings has ensured his first major retrospective comes with a public warning when it opens in Glasgow today.

Children under the age of 16 will not be allowed in unaccompanied to the exhibition, due to the content on display in a narrow area dubbed the “red room”.

The explicit images are ten of his most provocative pieces, including one on loan from Hollywood hellraiser Jack Nicholson.

Staff will warn adults bringing children about the nature of the work, which includes the titles like Game On, On Parade, Fetish, Night Geometry and The Opening Gambit.

A warning notice has also been posted outside the exhibition alerting visitors to the “explicit content” of some of the paintings.

Fife-born Vettriano, 61, who was at Kelvingrove to launch the exhibition yesterday, has been accused of sexism and of being voyeuristic by some critics for his erotic work, some of which was inspired by visits to an Edinburgh sauna.

However, writing in the exhibition guide, Scottish author AL Kennedy has sprung to his defence.

She said: “Be careful when you look at a Vettriano – you will see what you want to see. The pictures will tell you as much about yourself as they do about the artist and his figures.”

The artist himself – whose best-known work, The Singing Butler, sold for £744,000 – has described the work in the room as his “X-certificate” material, with much of it inspired by his real-life experiences, but insists there is nothing that will cause offence.

Some have even been turned into items of merchandise in the gift shop dedicated to the show, which runs until February.

The room containing the ten paintings has had its walls painted blood-red to intensify the effect of the erotic work.

Vettriano said he had been joking with staff that it should also have been accompanied by a warning saying “abandon all hope ye who enter here”.

He added: “I see it as the X-­certificate room. You shouldn’t take your kids in if they’re younger than 12.

“Blood-red was the colour of the sitting room I used to have in Edinburgh. Someone once called it ecclesiastical red.”

There are erotic works in the exhibition, including An Imperfect Past, which Vettriano describes as being about “private moments we wouldn’t want revealed”, and Beautiful Losers, inspired by a threesome.

Vettriano told The Scotsman how he came to start painting women and works of couples in sexually explicit moments.

He said: “I must have been aged 38 or 39 … I can remember coming back home on the train from Edinburgh and thinking to myself that the subject that I really love has been in front of me all my life – women.

“I just thought: ‘Why not paint women? That’s your first love’.”

Speaking about his exhibition, he added: “I think women will absolutely love it. They get the point. There’s nothing going on that they are not worthy of or will not approve of.”

Neil Ballantyne, museums manager at Kelvingrove, said: “There is nothing in the exhibition to worry about. It’s pretty tame.”

Nathalie Martin, Vettriano’s agent, said: “Anyone who knows Jack’s work well will know the more erotically-charged side of his work and his imagination is a huge part of who he is.

“We wanted this aspect of his work to be represented in the exhibition and we’ve been very lucky that the people who own these paintings privately were among the most generous of spirit of the potential lenders.

“There’s a large body of work that goes back for 20 years that has touched on this subject matter, he’s always done it. We get more response to this side of his work than anything else.”

Vettriano added: “My early paintings are very biographical and are all based on incidents that either happened to me or that I wish had happened to me.

“After five years and making a bit of money, I started to get very interested in being hedonistic. I got introduced to a guy who had a sauna. I’ve been involved in situations that I now regret, but I had to try it.”