Commissioning art is the process of hiring an artist to create an artwork, based on the client’s request. There are many reasons why people commission artworks. Sometimes, the piece they really like is too large or too expensive. In that case, a client is likely to request a smaller or more affordable piece.
Other times, a client needs an artwork in a different color than the original. Interior designers may commission art that fits in the color scheme of their project, while corporate clients might want to “brand” the piece with corporate colors, to complement their visual identity. Whatever the reason, commissions are very common in the art world, and most artists will be more than happy to create a piece according to the client’s desires.
We know that commissioning art can be intimidating, especially for the first-time buyer. That’s why, we’ve made this blog post that easily explains the whole process.
Image by Pierrick Van-Troost via Unsplash
Where to Start?
When commissioning an artwork first you have to decide whether you want an art piece that’s based on another artwork or a completely different piece. For instance, some clients want a piece they can’t afford and will ask for the same imagery, but in a different size. Most artists will be happy to remake the artwork, even if the exact copy is impossible due to technique or style. Other times, people want a more personalized art piece, for example, a portrait of themselves, a family member, a landscape, or something else that carries a personal meaning.
If you are not sure about what you want, get together with a gallery or an artist to decide what kind of art piece suits your needs. Gallery will show you the portfolio of artists available for commission, and help clarify the ideas. Once you pick an artist and the subject matter, you’d be asked to sign a written contract. Having a written contract containing the details of the commission is important to make sure everyone sticks to their part of the deal.
What are the Elements of a Good Commission Contract?
Every commission contract should include:
The description of the project:
The contract should start with a loose description of everything you verbally agreed on (the size, colors, materials, subject matter, and other details of the composition).
Most artists will request a 50:50 payment structure, requiring you to pay 50% upfront and the rest when the artwork is finished. Paying in advance is important, as it allows artists to purchase materials, and cover their initial expenses. In order to elaborate on the price, the artist will probably list the prices of other pieces, as a point of reference.
This is where the artists should detail their requirements. For example, if you want a portrait of your dog, the artist may ask you to send several clear images of the pet. Also, this is the part where you arrange how often you’ll receive visual updates, (drafts, progress photos, etc.) and in what form (high-resolution images are great for two-dimensional works, but videos are more useful for sculptures, as they show the piece from every angle).
It’s important to mention that even when you purchase a piece, artists still retain legal rights to it. Most artists will want to include an image of the artwork in their portfolio or website and sometimes, artists will ask to borrow their art pieces for an exhibition. If there’s a reason why you don’t want the art piece to be featured on their website (for example because it’s a very private portrait of your loved one or a portrait of your house) make sure to state that in the contract.
Now that you have an artwork completed, you need to get it delivered. It is important to explore shipping options and ensure that the artwork you ordered arrives safely on its location. In this part of the contract, you’ll see who is arranging the shipment: the client, or the commissioned artist. If you are ordering an art piece from another country, you will likely have to pay taxes, customs charges, import duty, and VAT, which will increase the price of the commission.
Since shipping can be complicated, it might be better to leave it to the artists or their gallery. Most galleries are knowledgeable about shipping options and additional costs, and will be more than happy to take care of all shipping arrangements.
The timeline should contain time estimates for every part of the creation process. It should include a payment schedule, deadlines for drafts and compositional previews, (and their approval), and the time needed to complete and deliver the work.
Image by Ari He via Unsplash
Most Artists Are Open for Commissions
Although not all artists are available for commissions, most artists are open to the idea, so don’t be afraid to ask for a quote. Commissioning art is a great way to get more affordable art pieces, personalize your collection, or acquire artworks that complement your living space. It is a very personal process for everyone involved and can require a lot of work. But the effort will pay off at the end when you receive a one-of-a-kind art piece, tailor-made for your collection.