| Back to HOMEPAGE
Fame, wealth and fast women:
where did Vettriano go wrong?
Columnist: The Times
This article was originally published in The Times on 27th March 2010.
It is reproduced here with the kind permission of its author and of the newspaper.
“Show me a man who doesn’t like his shoulder blade pierced by a stiletto heel and I’ll show you a liar,” chuckles Jack Vettriano. He looks up from a copy of his painting, Night Calls, depicting a dominatrix. “It may never have happened — but you’ve thought about it.”
The artist is sitting in the Vettriano Suite in a brash hotel in the West End of Glasgow, where the name on the door honours the self-taught Scottish painter. An exhibition that travels to London and Milan opens this morning in his home-town gallery, the Kirkcaldy museum, featuring many of his sexually charged images.
Already the Vettriano publicity machine is in overdrive, embarrassing the art establishment into near silence. The public may love him — he is said to make more money from reproductions of his work than any other artist — but the “snobs” at the national galleries in England and Scotland won’t hang him. “Painting by numbers” are the three little words that durst not be uttered.
Fortunately for Vettriano, these days he occupies some artistic otherworld, where critical opinion has no meaning. At 58, he has homes in Knightsbridge, Nice and Fife, and is noticeably more at ease with the world than he was a decade ago. Who cares what the critics write? “People like my work,” he says. “They don’t have to scratch their heads and say, ‘Is that the side of a cow?’ They look at it and know what it is. Accessible — that’s the whole bloody point.”
Jack Vettriano: “I can count on one finger the models who have said ‘no' to me”
The Vettriano industry is a marketing masterpiece. When he came to prominence in the early 1990s, the press latched on to his anti-establishment pose, while the public devoured his cards and prints, raising the price of his originals stratospherically.
The process reached a zenith when his best-known work, The Singing Butler, appeared at auction a month after Vettriano was given generous publicity on the South Bank Show. It fetched £750,000. “I was staggered,” he says.
Afterwards, he parted company with his agents, the Portland Gallery, and his publishers, the Art Group, went into liquidation. He now runs his own publishing company, Heartbreak, which he set up with Nathalie Martin, formerly a director at Portland.
These days, a man christened as plain Jack Hoggan, a miner’s son from Fife, travels with a PR guru.
Life and art have always been about sex for Vettriano. In his twenties and thirties he would hang out at Bentley’s disco by Kirkcaldy’s drab Esplanade, eyeing up the talent “It was all about strutting your stuff and picking up the women. I always thought that sex was more interesting than alcohol, and I still do,” says Vettriano. “What was fortuitous was, I knew I could paint, but I didn’t know what to paint. Then it just dawned on me: why don’t you paint the thing you love most of all? Women. And glamorous women at that. I don’t particularly like to see women in jeans or trainers, I don’t think it does anything for them. I like to see them dressed to kill.” He laughs. “And guess who’s dying?”
He still takes care of his image, cutting a dash in his dark frock coat and black jeans. And the women love it. But those who get close can get hurt. Not long ago, he broke up the marriage of a female reporter from the local newspaper, and she had only gone along to interview him. But there are plenty more admirers. It’s most noticeable at book signings and exhibitions, he says, when they turn up dressed to the nines.
“One of the attendants at Kirkcaldy said to me, ‘It’s great to have you back, Jack.’ I said: ‘I’d have thought you would be upset because it’s too busy, and you can’t just sit around talking’. He said, ‘No, Jack. Some of the crumpet’s smashing’.”