Art commissioning

Preparation - The Brief

Having developed the idea, considered the costs and decided to go ahead with the project, you need to solidify your ideas into a brief. This will then act as a guide to artists, both when advertising and as the project progresses. The brief gives everyone an agreed full picture about the context for the work. A good brief should be open enough to allow the artists to be creative but clear enough to ensure an effective selection process and quality outcome.

The brief is likely to evolve up to the point where the contract is agreed. The first version of the brief will define and explain the vision and the expected outcome.

A highly edited version of this may form the text for the advertisement for the commission, with the full version being sent out to potential candidates.

A third version will probably be produced once the artist has been chosen and the particular approach has been defined. This version will form the ‘schedule’ or part two of the contract giving detail to its standard terms, so it’s worth putting some time into this.

The Brief  - what the artist needs to know

  • What are the aims and objectives of the commission? Think back to the vision and what is driving the need for the project.
  • Who will be managing the commission for HCC? Who will be the main point of contact for the artist when the project commences?
  • If this is part of a larger project who else is involved in the project team and what are their roles and responsibilities. Will the artist be dealing directly with architects, designers or contactors?
  • What is the context and history of the site and project? Are there any plans, maps, drawings, special requirements etc.?
  • Are there any issues in terms of access, impact, health & safety and, it may help to involve the artist in selecting the exact site for the work)
  • What degree of community participation will there be, who will manage the process?
  • What are the timetable and milestones for the project, including deadline for response to the brief, short-listing and interview date (if applicable), access arrangements for the artist to see the site or deadline for completion of the project? If the artwork is to be integrated in a building at what point should installation begin?

  • What will be the process and criteria for selection? Who will be involved on the selection process?
  • What is the available budget?
  • What are the requirements for maintenance and durability and who will be responsible for maintenance?
  • Depending on the nature and scale of work, who will be responsible for installation.
  • What is the artist's copyright position and detail of ownership of the work?
  • What documentation may be required or planned?

  • Will the artist need to provide a method statement for the implementation of the work?
  • What is the decommissioning policy? Do you plan to review the condition or relevance of the work at a particular point in the future?

A good brief could include

  • Aims of the commission (what for and why)
  • Objectives of the commission (how will it achieve the aims)
  • Details of who is commissioning the work
  • Details of other partners involved
  • Description of where the commission is to be sited – relevant historical, social, environmental or geographical information, durability requirements.
  • Details of the piece (if known), including materials to be used, dimensions, even colour.
  • Details of roles and responsibilities including commissioner, project manager and artist’s role related to community consultation, workshops documentation, evaluation etc.
  • Timetable for commission, milestones, planning permission, deadline for completion
  • The process and criteria for selection
  • The available budget (if known or explanation if not)
  • Fee/payment offered (if known or explanation if not) and triggers for release
  • Ownership and copyright of work once installed (see contract)
  • Any special requirements e.g. public liability insurance, CRB check
  • Expected durability and responsibility for maintenance (if appropriate)
  • Decommissioning policy (if appropriate)
  • Equal opportunities statement in line with HCC policy on recruitment

Remember, the brief may be reviewed following the selection process and discussion of the design detail with the selected artist(s). The artist can help you to refine the brief to feed eventually into the contract.

If you do know what the work is likely to be and exactly where it is likely to be located then you could undertake a risk assessment at this point. This may need to feed back to the budget in relation to insurance costs. If not then it can be done once the brief is developed.

Consultation, Documentation and Evaluation

You should have decided at this stage what role, if any you would like the artist to play in this aspect of the commission.