Much like Big Macs and Nuts magazine, I don't mind Jack Vettriano's work existing - I just wish it carried a health warning. Careful: this painting may make you think you are looking at art.
It's almost impossible to talk critically about Vettriano, the self-taught Scottish painter, without being assailed as a snob by his legions of fans. No doubt, he has brought pleasure to millions of people who have prints of The Singing Butler hanging on their walls, but as Sotheby's expects a bumper result from his paintings from Terence Conran's Bluebird Club, we should not make the mistake of classing him as a major - or even decent - artist.
Vettriano himself has, in fact, put his finger on why his work should never hang in the National Gallery. While talking about The Singing Butler, which features a couple dancing on a beach as a butler and a maid hold up umbrellas, he said: "You could say it's safe - and I think that people like to sit on their sofa at night and just imagine they were that couple."
If great art - even just good art - has one quality, it is not being safe: it provokes thought, even outrage, breaks boundaries, pushes you into aesthetic overload. It doesn't make you look at it and think "Oh, wouldn't it be nice to be in Guernica". Jack Vettriano's paintings are as daring as rich tea biscuits.
His style is superficially like Edward Hopper's, but Hopper's paintings are filled with strong emotions, despite their apparent simplicity. His use of space is exemplary, often contributing to the emotional depth by isolating figures in one corner of a canvas or dwarfing them in a scene, whereas Vettriano is nothing but front and centre.
He is also often described as producing "sexually-charged" work, but there's more sexual tension in a bad Constable than in the best Vettriano, despite their overtly sexual subjects. He no more manages to produce anything erotic in his paintings of women in their lingerie than he does in a scene of deckchairs. It's all so clear, so directed - where is the room for imagination? Sleazy is closer to the truth.
None of this has to do with his popularity or him being self-taught. You don't have to go to Central St Martin's or Goldsmith's to be a great British artist, and there are plenty of popular artists who are excellent.
The problem is Vettriano's lack of talent, inspiration and depth. His work is like Edward Hopper without the intelligence or feeling, and it will be a cold day in the National Gallery when Jack Vettriano's pictures hang there.