News - Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year


This Sunday, Sky Arts will launch a unique lockdown Facebook Live take on its popular show Portrait Artist of the Year...

Press Release

Over the next four weeks, the channel will also release a raft of arts content – free for all in the UK – to provide a much-needed cultural fix for everyone at home.

Produced by Storyvault Films, the hugely-popular painting contest Portrait Artist of the Year has been transformed into a free, weekly format for the Sky TV Facebook page. Portrait Artist of the Week will see celebrity sitters pose live in their own homes, with audiences invited to paint along at home – wherever in the world they are based. First to pose is dancer and choreographer Akram Khan, sitting for viewers for a four-hour session from 10am on Sunday 26th April. He will be painted live by Christabel Blackburn (winner of this year’s series of Portrait Artist of the Year that aired in March), who, from her own home, will provide tips and interact in real-time with those who are painting along.


Khan said, “I am so thrilled to be part of the Sky Arts ‘Portrait Artist’ event. Even though the idea of sitting still for several hours haunts me, I do believe that we have arrived at an important threshold, a global one, where nature has brought us to our knees, and has forced us to listen again, to reflect again, to be still again, to witness again; to what is around us, but more importantly to what is happening inside of us.

“I see myself only through my own eyes, through my perspective, but what is so exciting is to have the opportunity to see myself through the lens of the artist Christabel Blackburn. In this unprecedented moment, where we are on lockdown (and we must adhere to that for good reason), one thing that I find to be so hopeful is that we are finding new ways to express ourselves and innovative ways to connect with each other. So in a way, perhaps we are still or stuck on the outside, but we can creatively keep moving on the inside...”


Regular presenter Joan Bakewell will host, while members of the public will be invited to post questions to get advice as they paint. The public can submit their final paintings via Instagram (@artistoftheyear) with the show’s judges, Tai Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano, and Kate Bryan, highlighting their favourites.

The programme will run every Sunday for four weeks and feature other celebrity sitters, with previous series winners taking turns to paint live and help viewers at home participate. Each episode will be available to watch online throughout the week so more people can participate, and a highlights programme will be shown on Sky Arts.

Executive producer Danielle Graham said “Portrait Artist of The Week is a unique chance for artists to paint along at home, whether they are professionals or have taken up art during lockdown. The programme will be repeated on Facebook Watch daily so there is less of a time pressure than taking part in Portrait Artist of The Year. We encourage everyone to have a go and submit their paintings via @artistoftheyear using #myPAOTW”.

Alongside the new version of Portrait Artist, Sky will be making selected shows from its schedule available for everyone. Sky Arts has seen an increase of 55% in viewing since lockdown measures were introduced, and in recognition of the clear demand for culture at home, the channel will start to make a raft of Sky Arts content available to audiences to stream for free on the Sky TV YouTube channel from today.

The weekly package will include performances, concerts and documentaries from the channel’s substantial back catalogue of award-winning arts content – all of which will be available for a limited period. Highlights will include episodes of Celebrity Portrait Artist of the Year, episodes from acclaimed documentary series Treasures of the British Library, the story of a destroyed portrait of Churchill from Mystery of the Lost Paintings, and live concerts from Queen, The Bee Gees, Shania Twain and Take That.

Philip Edgar-Jones, director of Sky Arts, said, “Our mission at Sky Arts is to make the arts more accessible, support practitioners, and get more people participating and making stuff. So with Portrait Artist of the Week and our new free YouTube collection we’re hoping to get people joining in whether it’s painting a portrait, immersing yourself in a journey into an artist’s life, or enjoying a classic rock concert in your living room. Right now, we need a fix of culture more than ever and this is just the tonic.”

Images - Sky Arts, Akram Khan by Max Barnett