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Portrait Artist of the Year returns to Sky Arts on 13 October

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Easels at the ready! The time has finally arrived for a new selection of talented artists, chosen from thousands of entrants, to compete in the nation’s favourite art competition, Portrait Artist of the Year. On Wednesday 13 October 2021, the show will make a welcome return to Sky Arts and streaming service NOW for its eighth series.

Portrait Artist of the Year, back with much-loved hosts Stephen Mangan and Joan Bakewell, brings with it a brand-new batch of amateur and professional artists as they battle it out to impress expert judges Tai Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan. And Portrait Artist of the Year would not be complete without an impressive and diverse mix of famous and celebrated subjects from the worlds of stage, screen, literature, sport and politics.

Taking the famous subject’s chair this year are: Celeste (Singer/Songwriter), Kelly MacDonald (Actor), Gabrielle (Singer/songwriter), Lydia West (Actor), Nish Kumar (Comedian), Alexa Chung (Model/TV Presenter), Alistair Campbell (Politician), Ian Hislop (Journalist), Hugh Skinner (Actor), Daniel Mays (Actor), Gyles Brandreth (former politician) Emma Dabiri (Author), Sophie Cookson (Actor), Jacob Fortune-Lloyd (Actor), Polly Walker (Actor), Philip Glenister (Actor), Chris Packham (Naturalist), Ali Jawad (Paralympic powerlifter), Arlene Phillips (Dancer), Grace Neutral (TV Presenter), Maggie Aderin-Pocock (Scientist), Sergei Polunin (Ballet dancer), Karen Gibson (Conductor) and David Olosuga (Historian).

Nine artists compete in each of the eight heats, and each heat winner will go on to paint rock and roll legend and former Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason in the semi-final. For our grand finale, three finalists will battle it out to take home the crown, painting the iconic Barry Humphries, best known for his on-stage and television alter ego Dame Edna Everage. This season’s Portrait Artist of the Year winner will receive a £10,000 commission to paint the esteemed Scottish-Italian classical solo violinist, Nicola Benedetti, which will be exhibited at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Joan Bakewell said: “I never cease to delight in presenting Portrait Artist of the year: once again the series brings a galaxy of famous faces and reputations, their faces as varied as their careers… each one challenging our eager competitors. The whole thing mixes talent with pleasure, effort with entertainment”.

Stephen Mangan said: “Joan and I have had the difficult task, once again, of watching a raft of talented artists paint portraits of a bunch of fascinating celebrities. I wanted the show to be Joan and I painting portraits of artists while being watched by celebrities but apparently ’no one would watch that’. Whatever, Sky Arts.”

Philip Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, Sky, said: “Over the years Portrait Artists of the Year has unearthed, encouraged and nurtured some brilliant portrait artists – many of whom have gone on to successfully make a living from their art; and that’s something we are really proud of as we welcome back a new intake of brilliant painters to turn our celebrity sitters into works of art. Watching paint dry has never been this exciting.”

Landscape Artist of the Year is due to return in early 2022 and production is already underway. Portrait Artist of the Year and Landscape Artist of the Year are produced by Storyvault; Executive producers are Danielle Graham, Samantha Richards and Stuart Prebble. Benedetta Pinelli is commissioning editor for Sky. The series was recorded within strict Covid safety protocols at Battersea Arts Centre.

Portrait Artist of the Year will air on Sky Arts, Freeview Channel 11, and streaming service NOW from Wednesday 13 October 2021.