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:

  • Who needs to be involved in the selection process?
  • Would you like to bring additional expertise on board e.g. experienced artist, arts consultant or colleagues in HCC? (consider the cost). Do you need to involve the users or community connected with the site?
  • What’s the timetable for selection?
  • Is there an existing deadline for completion of the project?

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.

  • Week 1-3. Advertise with a closing date of two/three weeks from initial advert.
  • Week 4. Allow for receipt of responses from artists.
  • Week 5/6 shortlist and invitation to interview.
  • Week 7/8 interview and selection.

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.

  • Contracts with a value up to £25,000 – you are not obliged to advertise as no formal tender process is required. However, we would advise you to obtain 3 quotes or 3 options from different artists to comply with the principles of best value. You will need to document this process and keep a record of how/why the selection was made. This can be done through an open advertised process (as detailed below) or it may be more appropriate to approach a selected group of artists (5 or 6) to invite them to provide a quote or proposal for the work.
  • Contracts with a value between £25,000 and £100,000 – you will require 3 competitive tenders from different artists with a formal selection process. HCC require some form of public advertisement for contracts at this level i.e. art publication or e-advert such as ArtsJobs
  • Contracts over £100,000– a full tender is required and 5 quotes or proposals need to be obtained. You must seek advice from Legal at this level.
  • For contracts above £100,000 or those exceeding EU thresholds EU procurement procedures must be followed. Legal Practice must be consulted and will give advice on the correct procedure to follow.

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

  • An advertisement must be placed in an appropriate place for the market that is to be targeted. This will mean identifying the appropriate trade, specialist media and local/national press. There must be a specific time listed in the advert, advising possible tenderers of the deadline by which they must express their interest in tendering. All those who respond must be sent an invitation to tender and you cannot short list those who express an interest. Three weeks must be given for the return of tenders.
  • Depending on the scale of the project you may wish to advertise in national press e.g. for an artist to lead on managing a programme of commissions for a major capital development.
  • You will need to ask artists to submit a tender proposal which is usually a CV, examples of recent work (usually up to 10 on slide or CD) and a response to the brief but not a detailed design proposal at this stage.
  • Once the tenders are received a selection panel could be established to create a shortlist. Shortlisted artists can then be invited for interview and may be asked to submit detailed proposals including maquettes, drawings and a budget. If you are asking shortlisted artists to work up a more detailed proposal they should be paid a fee for this (approx £500 each, although this will depend on the nature of the work required).

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.

  • From the expressions of interest, you will need to identify a selection of artists who’s work is appropriate for the contract. This should be a minimum of 3 artists (or 5 if the contract is worth over £100,000) and at least 3 weeks should be given for returning their proposals/tender.
  • You will need to contact them detailing the brief, a specific deadline by which they must express their interest in tendering and detailing the tender requirements i.e. what is to be submitted as part of their proposal.

Negotiated Procedure

  • In this case you will need to have a clear idea of the artist you wish to work with and why. This is called a single tender approval and can only be granted in limited circumstances. You will need to look at the Contract Standing orders for initial guidance on this and then consult Legal Practice.

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.

Glass from Serles House



  • 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