Jack Vettriano, the artist who might as well have been designed by a committee to create art for people who don’t know much about art but know what they like but aren’t really sure why, has apparently remarked that proposed cuts in arts subsidies are a good thing because they will force galleries to pay more attention to public taste. In common with popular but critically derided artists in other media (John Grisham, say, or Status Quo) he seems dissatisfied with mere popularity and the hard cash it brings; he wants love from the critical establishment that he affects to despise, and which certainly appears to despise him, or at least the porny cheese that his fans so adore.
There’s certainly a serious discussion or several to be had here about the formation of a critical consensus and a critical canon. What exactly are the objective criteria by which an artist such as Vettriano is deemed to be less good than Lucien Freud or David Hockney or Paula Rego, the Chapman Brothers or the Stuckists or Banksy? Are there any? Who decides? Does Vettriano’s very popularity count against him? Which leads into really juicy questions about taste and utilitarianism, snobbery and aesthetics and money, Ruskin and Morris, Pater and Wilde and all good stuff like that.
But Vettriano and his ilk don’t seem to be interested in such a debate, possibly because his argument, if followed to its logical end, means that James Cameron is the greatest film director of all time. Hey, maybe he thinks that as well. It boils down to the notion that because more people like his paintings, more public money should be devoted to letting more people look at his paintings; and on those terms, Cameron and Grisham and the Quo all deserve subsidies as well.
If he really has the courage of his populist convictions, why doesn’t he just open a public gallery devoted to his own art, and that of Rolf Harris and Beryl Cook; polite watercolours of the South Downs; Athena prints and the covers of 70s prog rock albums; dogs playing snooker and the tennis girl scratching her bum? And there could be music by Dido and Coldplay, and Avatar projected on the ceiling over and over again. That would be what the taxpayer wants, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it?
But never mind all that: Billy has a new blog! Hurrah! (Although that means tweaking the buggering blogroll. Hmmff.)