The question of "how do I commission a work" comes around often enough to discuss. I love commissioned work because it allows me to bring conversations I have with the work's owner into play. Of course, finding a piece that speaks off the bat to you is always a great feeling, but sometimes it's just too large or too small for the place you have in mind. Or maybe you fell in love with a piece before and missed out on buying it. This happens a lot too! Don't fret. Commissioning a work is an exciting process that is not so mysterious.
There are some understandings that must be made here, and of course I'm speaking on behalf of my own procedures. Firstly, I am not an artist who recreates the same painting over and over again. Some artists do, but I won't. When I used to work in an art gallery, I experienced first hand a customer walked in, pointed to a piece and said "I own the original", and the painting in front of him was an "original" too. He paid good money for a piece that was being done over and over for profit, and I witnessed the horror of his realization. So understand that commissioning a piece might involve using a similar palette or subject matter, but is NOT considered an agreement to reproduce a previously created work. This policy maintains the studio's integrity and the value of owning an original work.
So the process begins most easily when you are open, and works with almost any fine artist. Share the guidelines you have about the work you want. For instance, you could share your budget, the size of the work you need, the palette, desired materials, and any images of previous work by the artist. From here, the artist will determine if this is a project they can take on, or there may be something existing in inventory that already fits the vision.
If your guidelines are accepted, then you will agree upon a price and a deadline for completion of the work. In order for an artist to begin working on your piece, you will pay a non-refundable deposit. For smaller works, the deposit is usually half of the purchase price. For monumental pieces, a design fee covers the design phase of the work, and the remainder is addressed during production and installation of the work. When your piece is complete, your remaining balance is due before your work is delivered. Keeping communication open is important if there are any delays or changes to your agreement.
When your commissioned work is completed, host a party to celebrate it! Seriously- Art collections are a wonderful way to share ideas and conversations. If you're in business, hosting a party at your office to celebrate your new art is a great way to catch up with your community. Artists will enjoy meeting like-minded people who may also appreciate what they are doing and decide to get a piece as well. An artist with more collectors means that the work you have commissioned builds in significance and value over time. You're investing in an artist's vision, and your own vision as a person or company. That's the art of patronage, and the difference between matching the couches and creating a meaningful art collection.
Feeling inspired? Check out these amazing homes and businesses whose owners are visionaries and collectors:
Hotel Tivoli, owned by artists Brice & Helen Marden- http://hoteltivoli.org/hotel/
Chicago collectors, Larry & Marilyn Fields- http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/on_the_wall/fields_collection_tour-51676
Berlin Collectors, Ingrid & Thomas Jochheim- (watch the video)