This article introduces different kinds of commissions. It suggests things to consider when taking one on.

What is a commission?

A ‘commission’ can cover different opportunities, including:

  • Creating a piece of artwork
  • Producing a community project
  • Organising an event or activity
  • Producing an exhibition of new work
  • Research and development
  • A collaborative process within an organisation

Types of Commissioner

There are many different kinds of commissioners. Each has different priorities and ways of managing a commission.

The following examples offer a guide.

Establish your working relationship on an individual basis. Do this from the start at the expression of interest stage.

Arts organisations or institutions

Commissioning art is central to the work of many arts organisations. They have experience working with artists. They might provide a wide range of support. Including help with:

  • Concept and creative development
  • Practical organisation to realise work
  • Publicity support. Promoting the work within their existing press and communications.

You will work with a team of people responsible for these different elements. This can be both useful but also time-consuming.

Independent curator or commissioner

Such curators will usually work very closely with you. They tend to be your point of contact for most elements of the project.  You might work together on elements such as fabrication and press and communications.

Private developers and local authorities

Private developers and local authorities have a more distant working approach. They often have other agendas beyond commissioning interesting art. They will contract an artist to provide a project or service. Artists then need to work independently to deliver.

Artist considerations

  • What are the commissioner’s background and ethos? Look at other projects they have supported and how your work would fit into their portfolio.
  • Identify the commissioning process – how does it fit with your approach and resources?
  • What is the commissioner’s working style? Are they flexible and open to experimentation? to an evolving and collaborative approach, or are they very structured?

Be selective when choosing commissions. Keep your artistic vision and integrity in mind. Be open to new possibilities and compromise to gain experience.