Date: July 29 2012
The Archibald Prize-winning artist Adam Cullen, one of Australia’s most collectible contemporary artists and well known for his distinctive portraits of high-profile Australians such as actor David Wenham, has died.
The 47-year-old artist’s lawyer and friend, Charles Waterstreet, confirmed Cullen’s death to Fairfax Media.
"I have just spoken to Adam’s father Kevin [Cullen] who was with him yesterday," said Mr Waterstreet. Mr Waterstreet said Cullen had died in his sleep and was found by a family member today.
"We have lost a great artist who lived and breathed the life of an artist," said Mr Waterstreet.
Cullen, who lived on his own in Wentworth Falls, had been seriously ill for some time.
Close associates told Fairfax Media the family feared he was near death three weeks ago.
In a Sydney court hearing last November, Mr Waterstreet said Cullen was bipolar and faced serious physical and mental health problems.
Cullen’s pancreas had been removed, he was diabetic and he took 11 medications a day.
Cullen received a 10-month suspended jail sentence and was ordered to undergo counselling after he appeared on drink-drive and firearms charges.
He had been pulled over by police near Goulburn in July, last year.
A number of weapons were found in his car and he had a blood-alcohol reading more than twice the legal limit.
Gallery owner Michael Reid, who knew Cullen well, said the court case had a devastating effect on the artist. He described Cullen as "quite an extraordinary human being".
"Adam was the real deal,’’ said Mr Reid. "Even in the grips of a consuming illness, on a good day, he was one of the very best contemporary artists in Australia. Adam was astonishingly kind and the many hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in paintings he donated to charity attest to his endless giving. Adam’s death is a great loss to the nation in so many ways."
Cullen was a colourful and controversial artist who used a striking style to examine everything from crime, masculinity and cowboy culture.
Born in Sydney in 1965, he graduated from the City Art Institute with a Diploma of Professional Art in 1987 and received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of New South Wales in 1999.
In 2002, he represented Australia at the 25th Biennale de São Paulo.
He reputedly gained early fame at art school by chaining a rotting pig’s head to his ankle. Later, eyebrows were raised when he collaborated with convicted criminal Mark 'Chopper' Read for their children’s book, Hooky the Cripple.
Cullen was already well known as a so-called grunge artist in 2000 when he won the Archibald for his portrait of Wenham.
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