Art commissioning

Preparation  - The Budget

You need to consider the overall project, not just the cost of the artwork. If you know your available budget, you will need to identify how much you can allocate to the artist and how much for other expenses. If you don’t have a budget, you need to prepare yourself for the costs involved in order to raise the money.

Examples of things to consider are:

  • Artists design fees
  • Artists making fees/costs
  • Installation costs
  • Insurance costs
  • Maintenance costs
  • Decommissioning costs etc

The Budget - what it will cost

Depending on the scale and nature of the project you could consider the following:

  • Advertising and recruitment costs – advertising the commission, room hire, travel expenses and fees for selection panel and artists invited for interview.
  • Design fees for short-listed artists – short-listed artists may be invited to work up a detailed proposal before you make your final selection.
  • Costs related to consultation – this could include such things as community meetings, materials for display or workshops, transport or room hire.
  • Artists commission fee and expenses (see below)
  • Materials and production/fabrication costs.
  • Insurance – Public Liability/Professional Indemnity for the life of the project (see below)
  • Installation costs – site preparation, foundations landscaping, transport.
  • Consultation fees – for support or collaboration with other professionals such as a structural engineer or architect.
  • Publicity and other costs for public launch of commission – this could include leaflet production, mailout, press advertisements or catering for launch event.
  • Documentation and evaluation – you may wish to employ an external evaluator or photographer to document the process.
  • Maintenance costs – for example ongoing commitment to cleaning, repainting or electronic equipment.
  • VAT – contact the HCC Tax Officer for advice on this.
  • Cost of decommissioning when the piece is ready to come down, or, replacing the piece and making good the area.
  • Contingency – 10% of overall project cost is a useful starting point. Consider what if the project overruns and you need to pay additional fees to the artist, or, if material costs increase for example.


Considering insurance in your budget, means considering things like insuring the work while in transport or during installation (if appropriate). It also means considering what insurance the artist or project will require. Your risk assessment  (RA) will tell you this, but in brief, there are four possible outcomes:

  • Public Liability
  • Professional Indemnity
  • Product Liability
  • Employers Liability

Each will have a budget requirement if the artist does not already hold the appropriate level, so you may need to build in the cost of this to your budget, for the duration of the project.

Artists Fee and Expenses

There is no standard way of calculating how much to pay an artist.

Painting prices for example, are often determined by the size and medium of the work and the profile of the artist. Most artists will tell you what they want to charge, but that’s not the only cost involved and some commissions involve advertising a budget for the whole project.

A useful starting point in calculating an artists fee at present would be a day rate of £200 - £400. Expenses will also need to be considered. When advertising you may decide to offer an overall flat fee that includes materials, fabrication costs, travel expenses, artist’s time for education workshops and installation etc. You may decide to employ an artist as a consultant to advise you on the options for developing a commission in a given context. The consultant artist may then go on to apply for the resulting commission but not necessarily. You may also decide to invite design proposals, in which case you will need to pay the artists for this (see Selection/commission). You will need to budget for of all of these costs (tip - look for things missing from proposal quotes, too).

Be aware that if you are paying an individual (i.e. not a registered company), whatever you pay the artist must include all their expenses. Employment status regulations do not permit HCC to process invoices that mention things like travel and materials. Agree a flat fee to encompass this and get the artist to invoice us for ‘£xx inclusive’.

If you are hoping to attract an artist with a major national or international reputation or, if the artist is to have ‘Lead Artist’ responsibilities (managing the work of other artists or contributing to the overall design process of a major development) then their fees will be higher (higher profile also usually equals higher fees). Experienced practitioners can command much higher rates, but could still be good value at that level because of their expertise and the kudos they may bring to a project.

From the point of view of equal opportunities there may also be the need to have an additional allowance for disability access needs for an artist (or indeed any other consultant professional involved in the project). This could sit within the contingency figure, but must be allowed for as HCC has a legal obligation to provide reasonable adjustments.

Still not sure?
a-n magazine website can advise you further, as can the Arts Office at Hampshire County Council.

Consultation, Documentation and Evaluation

It may be appropriate to engage the artist in some of this work. However, it would be useful think about the number of days you might want to set aside for this if someone else is to undertake the work. Make sure the artist is aware in advance what is expected of them and is also paid for it.

Now you have considered the costs of your project and if the available budget is known.

  • Is it adequate?

If not, you may wish to explore other possible sources of additional funding.

If your project would benefit form additional funding to enhance the scale or quality of the proposed work there are a number of approaches you might take.

You could talk to colleagues in HCC to see if your project addresses other Council priorities linked to regeneration or community development for example.

Your project may be eligible for funding from Arts Council England South East (ACESE). They normally require a minimum of 10% match funding for applications to the Grants for the Arts scheme but might expect a higher proportion of matching funds form a large organisation like a local authority.

Look at the guidelines on the Arts Council web site.

If you think your project might be eligible then discuss the proposal with the relevant officer at ACESE before developing an application. ACESE should also be able to advise on other possible sources of project funding.

There are a number of Trusts and Foundations that may also offer support for arts projects but eligibility may be an issue as many trust and foundations do not offer support to organisations in receipt of statutory funding, such as local authorities.

However, if your commission involves a partnership with other organisations e.g. registered charities such as housing associations or arts organisations, developers or indeed individual artists they may be eligible to take the lead in applying for additional funding to support their working in partnership on the project with HCC.

Here is a list of Trusts and Foundations which support arts projects which will offer an idea of the range of approaches and priorities.

Is the budget approved?

If the budget for the project is not known or approved but there is, for example, a need to get the selection process underway because of time pressure, you could still move on the next stage and develop a brief.

However the brief should make it clear that the commission is subject to confirmation of funds or if the budget is unknown, that the responses to the brief will inform an application for funding.

However, if you were embarking on a project where you will require a design proposal that will help to shape the budget it would be good practice to ensure that you at least have the funds to pay an artist to develop the design proposals (this is usually around £500 each).

You should ensure your final budget is approved before offering a contract.

Large ceramic in Serles House


  • Hampshire County Council External Funding Officer
  • Public Art Officer, Arts Council England South East
  • Artists