Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Portrait of the Year Competition

(Link to YouTube) TV producer Sky Arts has taken a reality-TV-show approach to a portrait competition, pitting 21 painters against each other in an elimination round. The finalists were drawn from nearly 2000 applicants from all over the U.K., based on a preliminary stage where entrants sent in a self-portrait.

The judges, who are artists, art historians, museum curators, and gallery dealers, verbalize their reactions to the paintings as they progress.

The structure of the video is almost identical to the Great British Bake Off, with brief backstory excursions, commentary from the models, tense music, a ticking clock, and a moment where the finalists face the judges with their four-hour paintings.

Such artificial constraints may seem anathema to making a good painting, but it makes good TV entertainment. It's an expensive and ambitious undertaking to produce a show like this, and it would be great if they expanded the competition to entrants from beyond the U.K.

They also have a Landscape Artist of the Year competition (link to YouTube).
Website for: Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 
Previously: Portrait Society Competition
Portrait Society Conference


Tom Hart said...

I'm so glad you brought this to our attention. I'm a sucker for (some) reality shows, for better or for worse. This may be a nice way to combine that guilty pleasure with my more respectable love of art. As most know, or will figure out, if you go to YouTube and search Portrait Artist of the Year, you can watch the episodes in order starting with the first episode of the first year of the series (2013) - thereby avoiding "spoilers". That being said, I haven't watched any episodes yet, so my jury is still out. I'll be interested to see how the concept sits with me, as I generally have an aversion to art competitions...

Roca said...

I have to admit that this is interesting…but all of the paintings had such different character that it makes me a little ill to think about judging artwork like this. All of the painters did a marvelous job. Some had more technical skill and some connected more emotionally. It really doesn’t seem right to make it into a competition.

Christoffer Gertz Bech said...

Danish national TV has made their own version of the same show - so far there have been two seasons, and they are currently accepting applications for the third. I was fortunate enough to be one of the participants in the second season.

It is obviously not the best conditions for doing the best one can, but personally, I was surprised to find out how quickly I forgot about the whole setup with cameras all over the place and occasional disturbances from the host of the show. The tight schedule wasn't too different from any session with a live model and limited time - or painting plein air with changing lighting conditions. I don't think the painting I made was particularly good (I also didn't make it any further than the first round), but all in all, it was a fun experience.

I was pleased to see that the show obviously was made from a sincere interest in art and a wish to show a wide range of artists and their work. I talked to one of the producers and she said that she didn't find the whole competition aspect very important - but that it was the only way a national TV station could be convinced to present artists at work in prime time.

Rich said...

At least they get featured.
It reminded me of the Olympics podium: 1st,2nd, and 3rd place: Gold, Silver, Bronze.

The fourth place being the most frustrate. Even at a hair's breadth behind, there will be no medal, no recognition, nothing at all.

But alas, these are the rules of the game.

Dean White said...

Loved it, I watched the two seasons that were available. Wish we could watch the other seasons now. I found it really fun to watch, and it made me think how a non artist judges work as well as what attracted them to a piece.


Ruth Squitieri said...

So cool. I can't thank you enough to dig that up and share it with us. I started watching last night and am captivated. Hubby and I are fans of reality shows that have a "cerebral value", and this is right up there. At one time years ago we even came up with a concept similar to this, but we didn't know how or where to pitch. This is wonderful!
I love the concept, the realiy aspect of how everybody works, and that you can actually see how the judges deliberate. I most talent shows it's just some wishy-washy bla bla bla where all the judges agree. This is much different and so refreshing.
I can't wait to watch all 6 seasons. Awesome!

James Gurney said...

Ruth, so glad you're enjoying the show. I too am impressed with the way the event is set up and the way the show is shot and edited. They make it fun to watch, and I kind of like how the judges are tough but encouraging and the contestants are pretty respectful of each other.