Both seasoned buyers and those brand new to acquiring art are likely to experience the following scenario at some point in their collecting journeys. Perhaps you come across an artist's incredible original work, know you want to finalize the purchase to make it yours, but then find out it has already been sold. Or, you love a certain artist's style, but aren't fully ready to commit to a sale because of the size, your budget, or another similar constraint. In these cases, a commission may be the win-win answer for both you and the artist.
Curious about what a commission is and what the process entails? Create! Magazine is here to help. Listed below are a few common do's and don'ts to ensure the process goes smoothly for all parties involved and that you walk away with a work of art you will enjoy for years to come.
Before we get started, however, let's first define what a commission is. An art commission refers to a client paying an artist to create a custom work of art. Typically, this means that the artist will be making a piece for the client's personal collection, but it can also be for a special event, business, corporate collection, museum, or other institution. Some collectors will work on commission projects directly with the artist (which is the scenario this blog post will cover in detail). If an artist is represented by a gallery or art agent, these entities may help facilitate the sale instead. For clients working with an art advisory firm, the advisor may communicate with the artist or the artist's studio on behalf of the buyer. Now that we've got that covered, here are the top do's and don'ts.
How to Commission Artwork
DO familiarize yourself with the artist to ensure that you are truly ready to invest in a custom work of art. Depending on the artist's availability and the type of work they make, this process could take several months or even longer.
If you've been waiting to pull the trigger on a commission because you really know you want to collect work by this specific artist, great! DO look around on their website and social media channels first for a page, section, or highlight that will give you more information about commissions. Artists will approach them differently so even if you've commissioned another artist in the past, you can't always expect that the process will be the same every time. Not to mention, it can be frustrating for artists when they receive numerous repetitive questions about commissions that are already answered on their website or Instagram profile.
When information about commissions is not readily available, DO feel free to reach out and ask if the artist is willing to work with you on one. But DON'T be pushy if an artist says no. There are numerous reasons why an artist might not be interested in taking on commissions from poor past experiences to being too busy with other projects.
Once you're in contact with the artist, DO be as specific as possible about what you're looking for. Hopefully, you can have a call with the artist to discuss the details. If not, make sure to clearly outline specifications such as the size and your budget, and if the artist accepts creative direction, you can also talk about the color palette, subjects, and media to be used.
Commissions often necessitate more time and resources on the artist's part so DO consider that they might charge more for custom work. That said, DO keep in mind the excitement of having a completely unique piece that was made just for you. It's worth it!
DON'T move forward in the process until you've established what happens if you don't absolutely love the final product. Will they make changes for you? How many rounds of changes will they allow before you have to pay extra? If the artist has to start over, who covers the cost of materials? Outline these situations beforehand to avoid unnecessary conflict.
When you and the artist are in agreement about the price point and artwork they will complete for you, DON'T be surprised if they ask you to sign a contract or pay a deposit up front. This is normal and is meant to protect both parties to ensure that everyone upholds their end of the deal. Read through any legal documents carefully before signing.
DO ask for a timeline of when the artwork will be finished and if the artist will be sending you updates along the way.
Unless you're truly certain you will love the piece or you want it to be a surprise, DON'T have the artist send it to you without your final approval. Have them show you photos first and then ship it.
And finally, DO show off your fabulous new custom work of art. Once you have it hung or placed where you want it, share photos with the artist if you feel comfortable doing so. They will appreciate it! Also, it's a nice gesture to write them a review. An extra bonus is if you tell a friend who may also be interested in collecting the artist's work.
Now that we've covered commission basics, I hope you feel ready and inspired to add custom art to your collection. Have more questions about commissions or collecting in general? Feel free to connect with me via Create! Magazine's partner gallery PxP Contemporary (@pxpcontemporary on Instagram). I love working with new collectors and would be happy to answer any additional concerns or inquiries you may have.
Alicia Puig has been a contributing writer for Create! Magazine since 2017. Find more of her work: www.aliciapuig.com