In part one of this trilogy we discussed why a journey to commissioning one’s own art for the garden gives an additional dimension to a garden and in part two we looked at the more practical matters of where to place the artworks and we also talked about anchoring them down against bad weather.
In this article we look at commissioning the art work from an artist. As a client you can start from scratch or buy from an existing body of work. Commissioning from an artist or a gallery which represents the artist is all about trust and communication. It can be a daunting prospect when you first commission art but it can be a huge reward too.
Chilli Pepper Pot by Wendy Hoare at The Garden Gallery
Here we give you 10 tips to help you on your way.
1) It is important to buy art because you like it. You do not need an in-depth knowledge of art to like something. This is an emotional as well as a financial investment and so it should make you feel totally at ease
2) If buying from an existing body of work talk to the gallery representing the artist get as much information as possible about the piece and even ask to meet them.
3) You can often buy directly from an artist at art fairs and degree shows – these have proliferated over the last few years and they are a good place to start if you are a newcomer to art buying. At art fairs, dealers often represent many artists and they are a fountain of information – they can often impart information about the artist and the work themselves and I have always found them to be helpful and keen to share their knowledge.
4) Galleries may seem a little intimidating but just remember that they are there to sell. Galleries are retailers in many ways, showcasing and promoting the artist it represents. They are great places to visit and learn about specific artists and the thought and reasoning behind their art.
5) If you decide to buy an existing piece, do discuss where you will be placing the art work in the garden, how the art will fare in the weather and if the particular piece is a limited edition. Look for small limited editions – fewer than ten is a good rule of thumb.
6) If you are looking to commission something unique and specific, it is a good idea to ask to meet the artist – they can do a site visit and you can discuss the brief with them. Commissioning does involve compromise – after all the artist has an artistic vision and methodology and a good patron will aim to understand the processes that are required for a specific piece and give free rein to the artist within that brief. The artist should explain all of this to you – how long it will take and what you can expect as well pricing.
7) Just remember that pricing can take into account buying materials, casting, transport, manual assistance of large pieces and there is also an agent to pay. So always discuss all of this with the dealer, gallery or artist. It is best to have all the information before you start a project.
8) Galleries will provide a contract when you commission an art work – this is important and it should include pricing, delivery, etc. If you are dealing with an artist directly again ask for a contract to be drawn up.
9) There are no hard and fast rules about commissioning art works for the garden but many people do choose to get very involved as they enjoy the process of seeing a piece comes to life over time. A sizeable sculpture for example can take up to two years whilst a ceramic can take anything from four to six months. Modelling and carving are very time-consuming so this is not a process that can be hurried.
10) Prices at art fairs or degree shows can start at a few hundred pounds but remember that this art work needs to be able to withstand the outside conditions. Some limited editions can start at around £1000 , it is all dependent on size, material and the renown of the artist. For specific and unique pieces pricing takes into account the time it takes to make the art work and not many artists make an awful lot of money unless they are well known. But it is always a good idea to discuss your budget with the gallery or the artist – this makes for an upfront discussion and no misunderstanding. Never be embarrassed to ask how much things are – you need to know what your money will buy.
I hope that many of you will entertain the idea of commission art for the garden – an art work is not just a focal point, it can add fun, whimsy, interest and maybe even commemoration to a special place.
By Francoise Murat
‘Fallen Angel’ by Rick Kirby (Stainless Steel and Mild Steel) at The Hannah Peschar Sculpture Gallery, photographer Vikki Leedham