Commission Tips: Selecting Artists

Eric Boyer sculptures
Punctuated Equilibrium by Eric Boyer, woven wire mesh, commissioned for private residence, Sun Valley, ID. Over the past five years, Fresh Paint Art Advisors has placed and commissioned Boyer’s work for corporate, hospitality, and residential projects around the world.

When a work of art is well-chosen and thoughtfully sited, it creates a feeling of beautiful inevitability: it just seems right. But identifying an artist for a commission isn’t a simple matter. We asked two professionals about their organizations’ very different approaches.

Sculpture has become part of the landscape at New Zealand’s Auckland Botanic Gardens, where new works are being installed each year. While the garden is publicly owned, it also depends on the generosity of private businesses and individuals. As a result, according to Visitor Services Manager Micheline Newton, “most of our commissions have been direct appointments … undertaken in close consultation with the funding party.” Since 2007, the Friends of the Auckland Botanic Garden have been growing the garden’s permanent collection with significant purchases from their biennial Sculpture in the Gardens exhibition. Every two years a different curatorial team is convened to sift through proposals for these ambitious and enormously popular four-month outdoor exhibits, which attract many of New Zealand’s best artists. When it comes to selecting works for purchase, Newton notes that members of both the Friends and the Auckland Regional Council’s Gardens and Arts team have an active voice.

In contrast, Helene Brown of Fresh Paint Art Advisors in Los Angeles works primarily with private clients, many of whom are interior designers developing corporate, hospitality, and residential projects. Fresh Paint Art Advisors has a working relationship with over 300 artists and also maintains an extensive in-house inventory. Helene describes their process this way: “An interior designer or art consultant will contact us with a concept for a commission. We put together an initial presentation that describes the vision, size and scope of work, budget, and time frame, and presents artists that fit their needs and are experienced in working within their guidelines. This could be one artist if that artist is perfect, or as many as ten. Once we have worked with the client to narrow it down to an artist or artists, we then contact the artist to begin the process of submitting a formal proposal and presentation to finalize the details and move forward with the commission.”