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'Portrait Artist Of The Year' 2021 — release date, presenters, judges, celebrity sitters, and everything we know

'Portrait Artist Of The Year' 2021 hosts Stephen Mangan and Joan Bakewell.
'Portrait Artist Of The Year' 2021 hosts Stephen Mangan and Joan Bakewell. (Image credit: Sky)

Hit series Portrait Artist Of The Year is back for a new series, and once again looking to showcase the UK's finest untapped artistic talent.

Thousands applied to be part of the show's eighth series, and the best will compete over the course of eight heats, showing their prowess by capturing the likeness of a variety of celebrity subjects.

Here's everything you need to know about the latest series...

Portrait Artist Of The Year 2021 release date

Series eight of Portrait Artist Of The Year launches on Sky Arts on Wednesday Oct. 13 at 9pm. The series will also be available on streaming service NOW.

Portrait Artist Of The Year 2021 presenters

Stephen Mangan and Joan Bakewell will be reunited on screen for series eight, after COVID restrictions meant Stephen had to host the previous series on his own.

"I missed it last year because I was locked down," says Joan. "Because I'm so old, I was high-risk right from the beginning, and I didn't move — I stayed at home. I was too preoccupied with the sense of alarm that we all felt, I just knew that I couldn't do it. I did Landscape Artist Of The Year in the summer, which was out in the open air — that was just such a relief, it made a big difference to my life, going out to do that programme.

Joan Bakewell chats to one of this year's artists

Joan Bakewell with one of this year's hopefuls (Image credit: Sky)

"It felt wrong not to have Joan alongside me last year!" says Stephen. "It's a joy to have her back."

Portrait Artist Of The Year 2021 judges

Expert judges Tai Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan will all be back to judge the 2021 series.

Portrait Artist Of The Year 2021 celebrity sitters

As ever, we can expect a dazzling array of stars to pose for the artists over the course of the series. This time around, the celebrity subjects include Kelly Macdonald, Nish Kumar, Alexa Chung, Chris Packham, Philip Glenister and Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

In the first episode of the new series, the artists will be painting singer Gabrielle, The Queen's Gambit star Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, and TV presenter Grace Neutral.

Singer Gabrielle poses while a contestant in the foreground paints her portrait in profile

Chart-topping singer Gabrielle is among the celebrity sitters. (Image credit: Sky)

"As every year, we've drawn them from a wide range," says Stephen. "We have actors, musicians, politicians — not many of those, but the odd one! — journalists, sportsmen and women. It's one of the great pleasures of the show, and I think it's why Portrait has such a fervent following — not only do you get to see the artwork, but you get to watch these celebrities out of the way you normally see them."

"And of course, nobody knows who the sitters will be until the moment arrives," adds Joan. "That's always a great moment — you have to describe who the sitter is, and you're saying 'a very surprising sitter today, they're famous for this and they're famous for that' and you can see them going 'who on earth is it going to be?'!"

Portrait Artist Of The Year 2021 prize

Nine artists will compete in each of the eight heats, and the individual heat winners will paint former Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason in the semi-final. The three finalists will go on to paint comedian Barry Humphries — better known as his alter-ego Dame Edna Everage — and the winner will receive a £10,000 commission to paint violinist Nicola Benedetti for a portrait to be shown in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Portrait Artist Of The Year 2021 trailer

You can get a glimpse of what's in store in this trailer: