There are many different commissioning models used for public art. The most appropriate model will depend on a number of factors, including the scope of the project, the budget, whether it is a new build or a refurbishment, how the overall project is being contracted, and the location and profile of the site. The most common commissioning models are open invitation, curated, limited invitation and direct purchase, although some projects may use a combination of these.
Open Invitation refers to a process that invites all artists to respond to a brief. This is the most common form of commissioning for the Percent for Art Scheme. The selection process often includes two stages:
- Shortlisting a select number of artists from first round EOI applications and inviting them to further develop their proposal for a design fee.
- Shortlisted artists present their concept to a selection panel who select one artist or a team of artists.
In some circumstances, an EOI process is not applied. For example, the international sculpture competition which resulted in the work Grow Your Own by artist James Angus was an open invitation with no EOI process, similar to an architectural competition. However, an advertised briefing session for artists occurred on announcement of the competition. The shortlist process followed the closure of the competition and the selection panel comprised national, independent peer experts with no ongoing association with the site.
The art coordinator may take on the role of curator or employ a curator when an area of specialised expertise is needed for the selection of artists or artwork. These projects are rarely advertised. Examples of curated artwork include the Australian Indigenous Art Commission at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris; the Non-Permanent and Ephemeral Public Art Project at the Perth Cultural Centre and the Kalgoorlie Courthouse Percent for Art project.
A limited submission invites a selection of artists to either respond to a brief or to present the scope of their art practice to a panel. There is often no EOI process for this commissioning model. This model is most often used for smaller commissions. The Kalgoorlie Courthouse Percent for Art project is an example of a limited invitation work.
The commissioner can purchase an artwork directly from the artist or artist’s agent providing they abide by relevant procurement procedures. This is relevant if an artist has a particular body of work appropriate for a specific project. The Percent for Art Scheme has employed this model when there is a limited budget. Private developers often use this commissioning model. The collection of artworks exhibited during the annual Sculptures by the Sea exhibitions are generally acquired through direct purchase commissioning.
Some public art projects use a combination of commissioning models. For example, the public art commissions for the Kalgoorlie Courthouse used both open competition and direct commission models. The Foyer Oxford, Leederville project combined open invitation with limited invitation models. See Projects and Case Studies for examples of combined models.