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Art commissioning

Preparation - Selection/commission

Now comes the really interesting part! You’ve done the groundwork, you know the reason and context for the commission and you now need to start talking to the people who can make it happen: the artists.

Selection/Commission - Finding an artist

If you know generally the art-form you are interested in e.g. large-scale external sculpture then you can obviously begin to narrow things down. At this stage if you don’t have an artist in mind then it’s a great opportunity to talk to people about who they know about or may have worked with. Talk to colleagues in HCC who have worked with artists, other local authority Arts Development Officers, regional galleries e.g. Aspex, ArtSway, Millais, John Hansard or artists’ groups e.g. Artspace, A-Space. Decide if you want this to be a Hampshire artist and in which case, visit local open studio events (these are more cost effective as you commission direct from the artist therefore avoiding the gallery mark up).

The AXIS online database is a good resource, which lists UK artists with examples of their work, as is the Crafts Council Photostore. Sculpture at Goodwood and The New Art Centre Roche Court both have many examples of exterior contemporary sculpture. (see links)

Advertise the opportunity - Artists Newsletter is the key magazine for professional artists in the UK, The ArtsJobs Mailing List is a free list maintained by the Arts Council and is updated several times day. Arts Professional and Arts Industry are other possibilities. You could directly mail or e-mail artists or studio groups. If it is a large-scale project, The Guardian Media pages may be an appropriate place to advertise.

The selection process:

The timetable will vary depending on the project but a good starting point would be to think in terms of minimum 6-8 weeks from advertisement to appointment.

Depending on your method of selection (see below) you may need to allow more time for advertising and response, short-listing, time for short-listed artists to work up proposals and to conduct interviews.

Be aware Hampshire County Council has some specific procurement requirements when recruiting artists for freelance opportunities, depending on the value of the commission. Below is an outline of the processes involved which vary depending on the contract value. We would recommend that you contact Legal Practice to confirm you are following the correct procedure and also to approve your contracts.

For contracts valued over £25,000 Hampshire County Council have 3 methods that can be used to contract an artist; open, restricted and negotiated. We would recommend that for any project over £25,000 please consult legal practice for advice.

Open Procedure

This method is good for identifying new artists and profiling the project. It is also useful if you don’t have a firm idea of what kind of artist you are looking for. The disadvantage is that it can be time consuming and expensive and does not always succeed in identifying an appropriate artist.

Restricted Procedure

This is identical to open tendering except that you are able to select a number of artists to tender for the work from those who have expressed an interest in reply to an advertisement. It is important that the advert states that a restricted tendering process is used and should state the required information to be provided by those expressing an interest.

Negotiated Procedure

Artists with national or international standing often prefer to be approached directly. You will need to carefully consider the HCC tendering and procurement procedures at the planning stage of your commission.

Artist as consultant

If you are appointing an artist to act as consultant in developing a project brief we would advise against letting that consultant tender for the work because of the conflict of interest. If you think that the artist may be also interested in the tendering for the commission a better option may be to tender for the development of the brief and the commission at the same time.

You could then have a two stage contract with the development of the brief being the first stage and if satisfactory then the consultant could be commissioned for the second stage. If not, then a separate tender exercise excluding the consultant could be undertaken for the second commissioning stage.

If you are inviting artists to submit examples of their work, be prepared to return them as this is quite often requested.




  • Hampshire County Council Legal Practice
  • Directors of the Regional Galleries e.g. Aspex, John Hansard Gallery, ArtSway, Winchester Gallery
  • Public Art Officer Arts Council England, South East


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