Commissioning public art

Public art can be commissioned in a variety of ways. These are the guidelines for what is considered to be best-practice when commissioning public art.

Commissioning models

There are many different commissioning models. The most appropriate model to commission public art will depend upon 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.

Open invitation

Open invitation refers to a process that invites all artists to respond to a brief. This is the most common form of commissioning under the Percent for Art Program.

Where an Expression of Interest (EOI) process is used, the selection process generally includes two stages:

  1. Shortlisting a select number of artists from the first round EOI applications and inviting them to further develop their proposal for a design fee; and
  2. Shortlisted artists present their concept to a selection panel who select one artist or a team of artists.

There may be circumstances where an EOI process is not applied.

A typical open invitation process follows these steps:

  1. Building Management and Works (BMW) Identifies a project to apply Percent for Art and selects and Art Coordinator.
  2. The Art Coordinator undertakes stakeholder consultation, establishes an art advisory group and/or art selection panel and develops the artist's brief with their assistance.
  3. The artist's brief or EOI is advertised.
  4. The Art Coordinator and advisory group/selection panel then shortlist artists.
  5. The shortlisted artists submit a design proposal.
  6. The Art Coordinator and advisory group/selection panel review the proposals and select the successful artist.
  7. The artist signs the contract and designs, makes and installs the work.  They also develop documentation and maintenance schedules for BMW.
  8. The Art Coordinator completes the project report including a brochure related to the artwork.
  9. BMW submit maintenance schedule to commissioning agency and transfers ownership to them.


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.

Limited invitation

A limited Invitation 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 Expression of Interest process for this commissioning model. This model is generally used for smaller commissions.

Direct purchase

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 State Government has employed this model where there was a limited budget. Private developers often use this commissioning model.

Direct commission

This approach differs from the Direct Purchase model in that the artwork is developed specifically for the project. Artists are sometimes interviewed as part of this process. This model is often used for engaging Aboriginal artists in the Percent for Art Program (using the Aboriginal Business Directory WA Scheme).

Combination of commissions

Some public art projects use a combination of the above commissioning models.

Procurement exemptions

Procurement exemptions exist for Aboriginal artists with a registered business or members of an Indigenous business group. Under the Aboriginal Business Directory WA scheme Aboriginal artists or members of an Aboriginal artist’s group may register and qualify for Government direct tendering opportunities up to $250,000.

Commissioning process

Appointment of an Art Coordinator

The Art Coordinator is responsible for managing all aspects of the public artwork commission, which may include some, or all of the following:

  • researching and/or developing the scope of the project
  • developing the Expression of Interest
  • writing the artist’s brief
  • coordinating the select process and recording its outcomes
  • setting up a steering/advisory group
  • providing advice in relation the budget
  • drafting contracts
  • liaising between artists, client commissioning agent, contractor, project managers and other relevant stakeholders
  • organising architectural briefing sessions for artists
  • organising artist’s studio visits for presentations to the stakeholders
  • monitoring design development, fabrication and installation of the work
  • ensuring timely completion of the project including a maintenance manual
  • liaison with other professionals such as specialist curators
  • writing reports on work in progress
  • risk management
  • public relations
  • conflict management
  • collection of data on the project.

Projects commissioned through the Percent for Art Program will have an art coordinator appointed by the government approved panel. Public art projects commissioned outside the program are strongly advised to appoint an art coordinator.


The budget allocated to a public art commission should include:

  • management fee for the art coordinator
  • design concept fees for the short-listed artists
  • design fee for the successful artist
  • costs associated with producing the artwork.

There may be additional costs associated with the artwork such as:

  • insurances
  • transport costs to site
  • footings and foundations
  • remedial work to surroundings
  • provision of power and water
  • interpretive material (such as plaques etc)
  • installation costs.

These additional costs may be allocated within the public art budget or elsewhere in the construction budget.

Artwork brief

The artwork brief should be flexible enough to allow for a creative response, while still meeting the client’s needs and any specific functional and technical requirements.

The brief may include:

  • background to the project, including relevant history and reference to any theme or master plan
  • desired outcomes of the project (such as social or artistic outcomes)
  • the budget
  • the location and characteristics of the building or place
  • the scale and scope of the work, including any parameters for the art form and materials to be used
  • the level of consultation expected
  • the time schedule for commencement and completion of the work and any other key milestones
  • technical requirements that must be met including site analysis and constraints, plans and other drawings
  • sub-contracting options and responsibilities
  • proposed contract arrangements (such as insurance).

The brief should also outline the selection criteria which will be used to assess the different stages of the submission process.

Expressions of Interest (EOI)

The artwork brief is usually released through an EOI process. The EOI process invites artists to submit their interest in undertaking the public art commission.

The EOI submission usually includes:

  • the artist’s CV
  • written responses to the artist’s brief, with demonstrated experience relating to the selection criteria
  • relevant images of past artworks.

Artists may submit an EOI either as an individual or as part of a team.

Percent for Art Program projects are generally advertised on the Government tender website, TendersWA. Artists and those interested in public art commissions can register on TendersWA to be notified when relevant tenders are advertised.

An EOI may also be released via professional visual arts organisations such as Artsource , art coordinator networks, published on relevant websites and/or distributed via a media release.

An EOI is usually open for three to four weeks, though large commissions may be open for longer.

Short listing

For commissions involving an EOI process, the applications are assessed against the selection criteria by a selection panel. The panel composition varies according to each project but usually includes the project architect and other relevant stakeholders. The panel is generally facilitated by the art coordinator, who is a non-voting chair.

The panel members may review and rank each application individually against the selection criteria before meeting to undertake a group assessment using the same process. Following this assessment, usually two to four artists are shortlisted and invited to proceed to the design concept stage.

Commissions for large projects may instead shortlist a pool of artists who may be called upon to submit a project proposal, as required during the build./p>

The chair collates the information from the selection panel and prepares a report, following which the artists are notified in writing of the outcome of the EOI process. The deliberations of the panel should be kept confidential, however unsuccessful artists may seek feedback on their application.

Design concept

The design concept to be developed by the artist may include:

  • a written description of the artwork and response to the theme
  • drawings, sketches and/or digital images indicating the location, scale, colour and materials of the artwork and where appropriate, a 3D model or digital images of the proposed artwork
  • material samples
  • a methodology for community participation in the project, if appropriate
  • details of major fabricators, industry collaborators and other design professionals required to produce the artwork
  • preliminary budget or cost estimates
  • work program and payment schedule
  • proof of relevant insurances
  • preliminary details of installation requirements.

A fee should be paid to all shortlisted artists to assist with the development and production of the design concept. The fee does not include the rights to concepts, drawings, maquettes and models submitted as part of the presentation, which remain the property of the artist.

To provide the shortlisted artists with more detailed information about the commission, a briefing is usually held. The briefing may include presentations by the art coordinator, commissioning agent, architect and any other relevant professionals, as well as a site visit.

Artists are usually given four weeks to submit their design concept; however, this depends on the scope and complexity of the commission.

Final selection

The design concepts are presented to a selection panel in person by the shortlisted artists.

The selection panel will assess the presentations and the design concepts using a similar process to that undertaken in the EOI process. Following the assessment, the selection panel will select the preferred artist and design concept.

The assessment should consider:

  • the response to the brief and whether the artist has an understanding of the project objectives
  • the quality and creativity of the proposal
  • previous experience
  • appropriate level of skill to match the requirements
  • demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with the project team and the community
  • a realistic budget.


The successful artist will be invited to enter into a contract with the commissioning agent. The contract will set out the obligations and conditions of all parties.

The contract should include a work program with milestones, including a payment schedule.

The contract may also address specific requirements of the project, such as:

  • who pays for preparatory work such as services and fixtures
  • who pays for transport, delivery and installation of the artwork
  • who organises and pays for remedial work around the artwork after installation
  • who provides for the hire of equipment or professional advice which may be needed for items such as the footings or installation
  • who insures the work in progress and when does the responsibility transfer
  • who is responsible for maintenance and care of the completed artwork.

For Percent for Art Program projects, the contract is known as the Commission.  Best practice indicates that the following components should be included in the artist’s contracts:

  • Schedule A — Work Program
  • Schedule B — Payments Schedule
  • Schedule C — Artwork descriptions, drawings and overall budget.

For an example of a contract please see the BMW Artwork Commission Agreement.

Design development

During design development, the artist or artist team will usually:

  • review and refine the original design concept, particularly in response to any comments or directions that may have been made by the selection panel during the final selection meeting
  • review and finalise the budget by securing firm quotations from suppliers and/or fabricators
  • meet with the project architect to finalise locations and resolve any integration issues
  • meet with other design professionals as required, such as landscape architects and Aboriginal group representatives
  • meet with material suppliers and/or fabricators
  • produce samples or prototypes
  • undertake further research of materials and finishes before making final selections.

Design documentation

The artist will provide final drawings, prototypes, samples and documents as part of the design documentation stage, noting any amendments to the original design proposal.

Where appropriate, the artist meets with the engineer to obtain engineering specifications and certification where they are required for the structural elements or fixing.

The artist also needs to demonstrate that any professionals they engage have the relevant insurance.

Production of artwork

The production of the artwork may involve the artist creating the artwork themselves, supervising its fabrication or a combination of both.

During this stage, the artist will be required to meet the milestones outlined in the contract. Upon achievement of these milestones, progress payments will be released.

During production, the artist will be responsible for providing regular, written updates (including images) on the progress of the artwork to the art coordinator.

Where appropriate, a studio visit is undertaken by the art coordinator and may also involve the architects and other stakeholders.

Completion of artwork

Once the artwork has been completed according to the terms of the contract, the artwork will be installed in accordance with the conditions outlined in the contract between the artist and commissioning agent.

At the end of the project, the artist should provide the commissioning agent with images and a maintenance report. This completes the formal documentation for the artwork and project.

On completion of the project, an event may be organised involving the artist and stakeholders to celebrate and promote the project. Artists are often happy to give a talk to the commissioning agent or client about the artwork and the development process.

This process can also help encourage community understanding of public art.


At the completion of the project, it can be useful to evaluate the processes involved in the commission.

The department has developed a survey which will seek feedback from key people involved on the effectiveness and efficiencies of the public art commissioning process.

In time, this information will be used to review the processes and maintain best-practice in the commissioning of public art.

Page reviewed 04 February 2020