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Portrait Artist of the Year returns to Sky Arts this October with celebrity sitters including Paul Mescal, Sir Trevor McDonald and Eddie Izzard


We’re back this autumn with a double dose of portrait magic! While Stephen Mangan hosts a brand new series of Portrait Artist of the Year on Wednesdays from 14th October, co-presenter Joan Bakewell is live each following Sunday from 18th October with a sister series of Portrait Artist of the Week. Stephen and Joan will then be reunited in person to host a new series of Landscape Artist of the Year in early 2021.

For the seventh series of PAOTY a new batch of amateur and professional artists chosen from thousands of entrants, compete to see who has what it takes to impress our distinguished judges – Tai Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan. We welcome another 24 distinguished writers, actors, musicians and TV personalities to sit for the portraits. The series was recorded within strict safety protocols at Battersea Arts Centre.

Sitting this year are: Pam Hogg (Fashion Designer), Ray BLK (Musician), James Nesbitt (Actor), Katie Piper (Model/TV Presenter), Robert Rinder (TV Personality), Don Letts (Film Director/Musician), Fay Ripley (Actor), Ncuti Gatwa (Actor), Lady Glenconner (author); Mirren Mack (Actor), Sir Trevor McDonald, The Vivienne (TV Personality), Paul Mescal (Actor), Sian Clifford (Actor), Eddie Marsan (Actor), Deborah James (Author, Broadcaster), Eamonn Walker (Actor), Melanie Sykes (TV Presenter), David Haig (Actor), Jane Horrocks (Actor), Kwame Kwei Armah (Actor), Dame Katherine Grainger DBE(Five times Olympian Rower, Chair of UK Sport, Broadcaster), Fred Sirieix (Restaurateur and TV Presenter).

Nine artists compete in each heat, and heat winners go on to paint Booker-prize winning author Bernardine Evaristo in the semi-final. The three finalists have a few days to paint a commission, and then compete to portray the brilliant comedian and raconteur Eddie Izzard. This season’s Portrait Artist of the Year winner will receive a £10,000 commission to paint world-famous ballet dancer and Director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet Carlos Acosta, which will be exhibited at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

Following its huge success during lockdown, Portrait Artist of the Week (PAOTW), has been confirmed to return to @SkyTV Facebook, as well as airing on Sky Arts in the same weeks as the flagship series.

PAOTW is a unique live-streamed paint-along version of the main series, and the first event during lockdown received over 20,000 entries from all parts of the world including Pakistan to Ecuador to the UK. PAOTW features celebrity sitters in their own homes, with one of the finalists from the main series painting live via Facebook. Artists at home are invited to submit their final portrait to the judges through social media using the hashtag #MYPAOTW.

At the end of each week judges choose three of their favourite portraits to feature on the following live programme, and the judges also pick out their favourite 3 portraits painted by children. The pilot series reached more than 4.6 million people, with sitters including Noel Fielding, Will Young, Bernardine Evaristo, acclaimed dancer and choreographer Akram Khan and broadcaster and journalist Clare Balding.

The welcome return of the show comes as part of Sky Arts mission to increase access to, and drive participation in the arts in all its forms. Sky Arts is the UK’s only channel dedicated to arts and culture, and is to be made free for everyone this September, at a vital time for the cultural sector. Sky Arts will embark on an ambitious programme of activity to support and champion the arts – putting artists, creatives, and public participation centre stage on a channel that everyone across the UK can watch on Freeview.

Landscape Artist of the Year is due to return in early 2021 and production is already underway. Portrait Artist of the Year, Landscape Artist of the Year and Portrait Artist of the Week are produced by Storyvault; Executive producers are Danielle Graham, Samantha Richards and Stuart Prebble. Benedetta Pinelli is commissioning editor for Sky.

About Sky Arts

As the UK’s only dedicated arts channel, Sky Arts exists to bring more art to more people across the UK. By throwing open the doors to make the channel free to air, we want to increase access to and participation in the arts. Offering something for everyone, whatever their passion, Sky Arts showcases the best of classical and popular music, theatre, opera, dance and the visual arts, as well as original drama and comedy.

About Sky

With 24 million customers across six countries, Sky is Europe’s leading media and entertainment company and is proud to be part of the Comcast group. Our 32,000 employees help connect our customers to the very best entertainment, sports, news, arts and to our own local, original content.

Following the success of Sky originals like Chernobyl, we plan to double our investment in original content by 2024. We’re also developing a new TV and movie studio, Sky Studios Elstree, which is expected to lead to the creation of over 2,000 new jobs and generate an additional £3 billion of production investment in UK creative sector in the first five years alone.

Our technology allows Sky customers to watch what they want, when they want, how they want and connects millions of people to content they love. And our online streaming service, NOW TV, brings viewers all the enjoyment of Sky with the flexibility of a contract-free service.

We also believe that a company of our scale has a responsibility that goes beyond our business, and into the community. We recently announced a series of commitments to help tackle racial injustice and improve diversity and inclusion. To ensure the commitments are delivered, Sky will invest £10million per year across its markets for each of the next three years. We’re committed to being Europe’s first net zero carbon entertainment company by 2030 – two decades before we have to – and we’re an inclusive employer recognised by The Times and Stonewall for our commitment to diversity.

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About Storyvault Films

Storyvault Films is an independent TV production company making a wide range of high-quality factual and factual-entertainment programmes for all the major TV channels in the UK and for international distribution. Formed in 2009, the company brings together a group of award-winning producers and directors, alongside highly experienced production management and expertise in casting and live and pre-recorded programming. Our slate covers every variety of factual programmes, including revealing access shows, penetrating documentaries and lighter features and arts.

Current and recent credits include seven series of “Portrait Artist of the Year” and six series of “Landscape Artist of the year” for Sky Arts. Also for Sky Arts our team produced recent coverage of the Cheltenham Book Festival and “ART 50”. We recently won a coveted Grierson prize for our Channel 4 feature, “Artist in residence: the Football Club” and have completed a feature-length documentary for Showtime and BBC Films - “If you don’t know me by now - the story of Teddy Pendergrass.” Most of our productions are available for international distribution.

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