On 4 March, Shapes Auctioneers in Edinburgh sold one of Jack Vettriano's most popular paintings, Dance Me To The End Of Love, for £337,000, including the buyer's premium. In 2004 his The Singing Butler sold for almost £750,000, the highest auction price ever for a Scottish painting.
I'm a week late with this news, because what art fetches at auction doesn't interest me. It's the art that matters, not its price. Having taken a closer look, I believe this story demands a Coxsoft Art Caustic Comment.
Jack Vettriano (a nom-de-brush) is a world best-seller when it comes to prints, but he is shunned by the Art Establishment; major UK galleries refuse to acquire his paintings. Why? He never attended art college; he is self-taught; and, worst of all, the public loves his beautiful, haunting, evocative paintings.
Graduation exhibitions at the most prestigious art colleges are like debutantes' coming-out balls: the pundits are there to cast an eye over the new talent. Miss out on the balls, and Society doesn't know one exists; one is merely another untalented member of the Proletariat.
Add to this the fact that artistic talent is rare and that to keep student numbers up the art colleges must accept many untalented yobbos, all of whom must be allowed to graduate as fully fledged artists, and you begin to realise why the Art Establishment hates our Jack.
Self-taught! No diploma! Unknown to Society! Talented! And popular! All of this is anathema to the Art Establishment, which is completely out of touch with aesthetics, yet nevertheless dictates what we're supposed to like. If its graduates churn out railway sleepers, rumpled beds and dead cows in formalin, that's what we must like, damn us. And the more we blow raspberries at the Establishment's chosen ones, the deeper becomes its feeling of superiority. If the Proletariat don't like it, it must be art. This, in the final analysis, is the only means the Art Establishment has of determining what is and what isn't art. This and its balls.