Commissioning Art

Commissioning Art

How to buy art….
…or how to commission a piece of art.Hog Parade 2017

Now don’t go running for the hills, it really isn’t that scary.

So why would you consider commissioning a piece of art and more importantly, is it going to break the bank?
Well let’s get the money bit out of the way before we start.
Commissioning art does not have to be expensive.  Honestly.  It doesn’t.

An artist will most definitely work to produce work to your budget, as long as you are not expecting someone like Tracy Emin to produce a piece for £150.00, but by being realistic about what you want and who you want to produce the work for you, everyone should be happy.

So how and why would you approach an artist to commission some art?

The easiest way is by looking at artists’ work in galleries or at an art exhibitions or art fair.  When you find someone whose work you really love it is then a question of getting in touch with them.
Galleries will want you to deal with an artist through them, that is after all how they make their money, selling artists artwork.
I am in danger here of upsetting all the gallery owners by being so open about how they operate but, most galleries take anything from 30-70% of the price on the artwork, leaving the artist to either inflate their prices so that what’s left is what they are happy with or leaving them with a very small profit margin.

If you visit an artist at big art shows, they will not have had to pay commission, but they will have paid a huge amount for the exhibition stand. The artist needs to consider all these costs when pricing their work.
Even your local art exhibitions charge the artist for taking part in the shows, with a hanging fee, and then take commission on sales at their exhibitions.

This means that having once found your favourite artist, if you approach them outside of an exhibition, there could be a deal to be made on price simply because there is no commission element. But don’t expect it, they might be tied into a contract with a gallery which prevents it.

Jess the cow

To find an artist whose work you like, visiting them at home is a great way to go. Every year, here in the UK, most counties and some towns organise ‘Open Studio’ or ‘Open House’ artist events where you can visit an artist in their working environment and see a larger selection of their work.

So why should you commission work?

If you see a piece of work and you fall in love with it, you are likely to want to buy it, so go for it. But if you love someone’s style and you want something more personal then, having work which is tailor-made for you and your family means that no one else will have a piece like yours.

There are a couple of caveats I need to throw in here.

Not all artists will agree to take on commission work.  Why?  Because coming up with work which meets the expectations of the client is stressful.  Really stressful.  Most artists will want to put your happiness with the finished artwork ahead of their own ego.  They will spend far more energy on getting it right and at the end of the day you may not like it.


You will have to agree on the price up-front but be aware, if you keep making changes to the piece as it goes along, you could be charged extra at the end.  You need to be clear about what you want, and you need to agree to the number of changes included in the price and finally there needs to be an agreement about what happens if you don’t like the finished piece. Some artists will just refund you all your money, they don’t want the hassle and you may buy something else. But for some artists, if they have had to buy in products specially or if the piece is very personal to you and no one else would want it, you will lose your deposit.

Often an artist will ask for an amount/deposit upfront which will cover the cost of buying in the materials needed for your finished piece.  The balance of the agreed amount would be paid on collection.

With all the above to consider, this may give you a better idea as to why some artists simply don’t want to work like this.

Eastenders on Acid 2

But don’t be put off.  If you love an artist’s style of work, the chances of things going wrong are rare, being aware and making the agreements up-front saves everyone from upset.

You also have to remember that the artist owns the copyright to all the work they produce.  If you want to own the copyright, so that an artist can’t use images of your artwork as prints, then a conversation will need to be had about purchasing that copyright. Warning, it wont be cheap.

The tide is definitely turning in the art-world.  I have likened it to wine. Back in the 70’s and 80’s the average person in the street drank Blue Nun, Liebfraumilch or Mateus Rosé. We were not very knowledge about wine back then and we drank what was available in stores.  Now we have an incredible range of wines available, we are far more discerning and comfortable selecting wine in a restaurant or from our chosen supplier.

Art is going thought a similar phase.  We have shows on TV, ‘Sky Arts portrait/landscape artist of the year’, BBC’s ‘The Big Painting Challenge’ and the latest BBC program,  ‘Home is where the Art is’ where three artists compete to win a commission piece from a homeowner. Well worth watching if you are still feeling frighten about commissioning work.

On a personal note, I have taken on a number of commissions over the past five years. Mainly for charities but a couple for clients who like to collect my work.  I do not share photos of commissioned works without the consent of the client. That is just my policy. The images in this post are all commissions I have done, and the clients are very happy for me to share provided I do not share their names.

So, my advice to you, find an artist you like, contact them about a commission and hopefully you will have a bespoke piece of work that you can enjoy for decades to come. It really isn’t that scary.

Doddy Hare


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