Saturday 31 August 2002

Down with the arts establishment

One of my favourite books by the great economist Ludwig von Mises is The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality. Mises explains that highly educated intellectuals often resent capitalism precisely because it rewards those who satisfy the masses rather than catering for the elite. Therefore:
He (the intellectual) indicts society's economic organisation, the nefarious system of capitalism. But for this unfair regime his abilities and talents, his zeal and his achievements would have brought him the rich reward they deserve.

It is the same with many lawyers and teachers, artists and actors, writers and journalists, architects and scientific research workers, engineers and chemists. They, too, feel frustrated because they are vexed by the ascendancy of their more successful colleagues, their former schoolfellows and cronies.

In today's Scotsman, there is a fascinating profile of the Fife artist, Jack Vettriano. None of Vettriano's works are owned by any public institution in Britain other than the municipal gallery in Kirkcaldy. He is rejected by the arts establishment. So, is this artist a failure? Well, this week four of his paintings were sold for £100,000. He earns another £250,000 per year in royalties from Britain's best-selling fine-art print. The arts establishment clearly resents commercial success. Good luck to Jack, I say. He is earning an honest penny (lots of them!) in the free market. Let's hope he is laughing all the way to the bank. This is far more honourable than living off the taxpayer like his denigrators.

Incidentally, Vettriano, a successful capitalist, should be proud that his works are appreciated in Kirkcaldy which just happens to be the hometown of Adam Smith!