Adam Cullen was born in Sydney in 1965. The artist was passionate about drawing from a very young age, and as a teenager drew cartoons for a local newspaper. He first gained recognition in the art world when he chained a decomposing pig's head to his ankle for two weeks. Cullen was associated with the Grunge art movement in the early 1990’s.
In 1997, much to the surprise of his contemporaries, he entered the Archibald prize. He was hung as a finalist in 1998 and went on to win the prize in 2000 with a portrait of actor David Wenham. He continued to enter the Archibald Prize regularly after winning and was subsequently hung as a finalist nine times.He was also instrumental in changing perceptions about the conservative nature of the Archibald Prize.
The artist used a highly personal visual language to address a broad range of topics including masculinity, crime, and the relationship between animal and human behaviours. Cullen had a democratic approach to art and would happily merge references to high and low cultural influences in his works. Much of the work made post 2000 consisting of paintings executed in a bold pop style with defining features of drip marks, iridescent colours and black outlines. His works skilfully combine irreverent humour with an astute sensitivity to society.
Cullen 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.
Cullen was a finalist many times over in the Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, in 2000 he won the Archibald with his composition Portrait of David Wenham 2000. This success was followed by winning the Mosman Art Prize in 2005 and the 2008 Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize with Pegasus Flying over Sydney 2008.
In mid 2008 Cullen's work was the subject of a major survey exhibition, ADAM CULLEN. LET'S GET LOST, curated by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and was accompanied by a major catalogue published by the gallery.
The Cullen (Hotel) in Prahran, opened in Melbourne November 2009 and remains an ongoing tribute to the artist's work with paintings and archival pigment prints of works from his many exhibitions adorn the guest rooms and foyers.
Sadly the artist died at home in the Blue Mountains on 28 July 2012.