How to build strong relationships with curators and get the most out of their experience when working with public galleries.
The event was held on 12th February 2013. You can view details of the event here.
How to build strong relationships with curators and get the most out of their experience when working with public galleries.
The event was held on 12th February 2013. You can view details of the event here.
In France, 1648, a group of court artists sent a petition to King Louis XIV, who at the time was 10 years old, requesting the establishment of a Royal Academy of Painting, which would distinguish their work from the artisan trades. To make their case, they exhibited a grand display of works – all of which glorified the monarch and sought to demonstrate painting as a fine art solely dedicated to “the pursuit of virtue”.* After much opposition from guilds and corporations, the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture was secured alongside academies in Holland, England and Italy, and with it the status of the new academic artist as a professional distinct from the guilded tradesman.
This is the earliest example I can find of the artist as curator. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it announces a time when art and its accessory occupations of criticism and curation were undergoing intense professionalisation. Subsequent manifestations of the artist as curator, culled unsystematically from Europe and North America’s art historical annals, are equally connected to moments when artists took it upon themselves to reform officially and socially decreed policies regarding their profession, and thereby redefine the cultural status of works of art. And with the awakening of artist as curator come more intricate, intelligent, and complex understandings of the ways that exhibitions mediate the public and private sphere beyond the mere display of objects.
To fully address the public and private, commercial and critical ways in which art exhibitions are intertwined, interpreted, absorbed and denied vis-à-vis a consideration of the artist as curator might actually require a re-writing of art history as we know it – too great a task for me – a non-historian. What I can do is posit the relevance of the artist as curator in art practice, and to offer some examples of how artists imagine this role today.
When critics and members of the public in 1800s France were invited to view the new society exhibitions, they were entering a world dominated by artists – where artists selected the work on the walls and arranged every aspect of its presentation.
Consider for instance the Paris Salon – an annual exhibition juried by academy members to present the finest examples of classical French peinture. By 1830, fringe exhibitions known as Salons des Refusés – translated from French to mean “Salons of the Refused” – were being mounted by artists whose work the Paris Salon had refused official entry. Hosted in living rooms and small galleries, the artist as curator was an important component to these and other similar salon-style presentations, where groups of affiliated peers organised counter-exhibitions to the well-bridled Academy shows.
The most famous among the Paris Salons des Refusés occurred in 1863, when a group of artists interested in painting “every day life” were outraged by the unprecedented number of works (over 3,000) the jury rejected that year. As usual, they organised an exhibition of refused work, yet in a controversial move they sought permission from the government to go above the jury’s head and exhibit the Salon des Refusés in an annex alongside the regular Salon. In a decision that caused mayhem among Paris’s art constabulary, Emperor Napoléon III granted permission and the 1863 Salon des Refusés became the first to be officially sponsored by the French government. Among other works, it included one of the most significant paintings of modern life, Édouard Manet’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe. The Impressionists continued to exhibit their works in successive Salons des Refusés, consistently dismantling the critical sway of the Paris Salon and allowing the public to judge their work. By 1881, the government had withdrawn official sponsorship of the Salon. In its place, a group of artists organised the Société des Artistes Français to take responsibility for the show. Soon after this another group that included Ernest Meissonier, Puvis de Chavannes, and Auguste Rodin seceded to form the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and in their newly founded association they organised their own exhibition, the Salon du Champs de Mars. Following in this vein, in 1903 a group of painters and sculptors led by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Auguste Rodin organised the exhibition that would become the showpiece of 20th century European art, the Salon d’Automne. Jacques Villon, one of the artists who helped organise the drawing section of the first salon would later help the Puteaux Group gain recognition with showings at the Salon des Indépendants. Meanwhile, in North America the Association of American Painters and Sculptors organised the first Armory Show in New York in 1913, run by artists Arthur Davies and Walt Kuhn and critic Walter Pach. It displayed some 1,250 paintings, sculptures, and decorative works by over 300 European and American artists, including Marcel Duchamp who famously exhibited his Nude Descending on a Staircase No.2. The rest, as they say, is history.
The significance of the artist association in the development of the artist as curator persists today, for example in Dublin’s Royal Hibernian Academy annual exhibition, a relatively unchanged descendant of the society exhibitions held in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries. As such they have done little to progress the role of the artist as curator beyond the salon-style show of a bygone era. While the context of these shows may be clear and the premise uncomplicated, at least on the surface, they exist primarily as an institutionalised reinforcement of values – to the exclusion of other ideas that might be present in the exhibition. Although more complex in origin and meaning, aspects of the end-of-year Fine Art degree shows or MA exhibitions also incorporate remote notions of the artist as curator. These shows are produced by and for the artists they represent, with the support of their ‘member’ organisation (school). A recognised lack of critical intent may be why many schools now commonly invite a guest-curator to oversee these shows.
Self-organising is vital to any consideration of the artist as curator, and the ways in which the artist as curator has evolved through a cast of artist-initiated and run associations illustrates that artists (as early as 1648 France) have been deeply and actively involved in self-organisation as a form of curating.
Today artists continue to curate in ways akin to the salon-style, perhaps as a type of refusé in response to an official exhibition, or as a means to simply prepare an exhibition of recent work for a new audience. With the advent of artist-run spaces in the 1970s and 80s a new type of artist as curator emerges. Project in Dublin, founded by artists in 1969, and its counterparts in the US and London, directly positioned artists at the centre of their exhibition programmes. Artists selected the work, and instead of long-term planning for 6-8 week shows, exhibitions were usually in short, 2-3 week rotations. Flexibility, experimentation and support of unestablished artists countered both the institutional framework the museum and the commercial agenda of the gallery. Known in general terms as ‘alternative’ venues, gradually these spaces have morphed into variations of the organisations they sought to oppose, to become new hybrids of the museum and the gallery. Today, Project et al represent a prototype of a particular kind of arts organisation, working to complement established spaces rather than counter them, and the artist as curator has been replaced by a new creed of professional programme directors and curators.
There are art spaces where closely affiliated peer groups – for example Catalyst Arts in Belfast, Transmission in Glasgow, and Orchard in New York (which ran for 3 years from 2005-2008) – radically assign the role of artist as curator at the core of their activities. Initiated as self-organised venues, the responsibilities for planning and curating exhibitions falls upon a committee of individual artists who work together on all aspects of the programme, including fund-raising, administration and governance, and future planning. Here, modes of self-organising depend on an infrastructure that includes a physical space. Self-organising can also involve the artist as curator as the generator of events that expand beyond the exhibition – and beyond the exhibition venue – to off-site events, public gatherings, one-night performances, screenings, etc.**
As artists tapped into and defined tasks now associated with curating, long before the role of the professional ‘curator’ was named or even imagined, the modern art exhibition also progressed from historic collections into the temporal, ahistoric and thematic events we know today. By the 1920s artists were fully conscious of the exhibition as a revolutionary figure in the story of art, such that El Lissitzky aimed to exhibit an exhibition and Dadaist and Surrealist activities explicitly re-imagined conventions in exhibiting. In a vivid description by curator Germano Celant…
“[Surrealist exhibitions] wanted to encourage all senses of the imagination, and they valued the interference of the outside world, whether it took the form of dirt, error, sex, disorder chance, disgust, fear, perversion[…]And so in their exhibitions, from 1938-1947, the space was inundated with pulsating sensations, involving the spectators” [emphasis mine].
It is precisely in the intensity of the viewer’s experience that the exhibition begins to work against conventional directives for experiencing individual works of art and towards entire, spatial arrangements. Environments were filled to capacity – the work occupied the walls, the floors, the ceilings. And visitors reacted, usually to some level of psychological shock, the Surrealists preferred brand of audience participation.
But beyond theatrics, the Surrealist exhibition understood art in relationship to other cultural and social systems. And with these developments we can begin to recognise dimensions of the artist as curator that lead into the artist-curator – an individual whose practice exists in an expanded field, where the radical reworkings of presentation, exhibition, display, and installation are fundamental to the practice of being an artist. By 1957, in an ambitious inhabitation of the artist-curator, Richard Hamilton made the now famous An Exhibit at the ICA in London. Hamilton’s amalgamation of images, artworks and display techniques arguably created a new standard in both artistic and curatorial practice. Marcel Broodthaers’ landmark 1968 project Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles is another key example of this kind of work.
As we jump through the 20th century and into the 21st, taking into account the artist-curator as a principle player, we can locate examples as diverse as Fluxus and the Situationists, to Gordon Matta-Clark’s FOOD and Judy Chicago and Miriam Shapiro’s Womanhouse, to the current practices of Liam Gillick, General Idea, Bik van Der Pol, Group Material, Pil and Galia Kollectiv, Gavin Wade, Atelier Van Leishout, Kathy Slade, Paul O’Neill, Nayland Blake, and many, many others.***
While the political and interpretive agendas may diverge (to the extreme), each of these examples prepares the exhibition as a discursive site, inextricably tied to the artist-curator as a proponent of collective work. Without entering into a narration of particular projects, what is important here is how these developments extend art-making beyond conservative, traditional ideas of medium or ‘discipline’. These practices shift artistic practice and in doing so they move us, the audience, from a single understanding of ‘art’ towards a fuller terrain of creative practices in visual culture.
A Last Word about Professionalisation
Politics, criticism and representation intersect in the exhibition perhaps more concretely than in other social and cultural manifestations – and for this very reason, the artist as curator embodies a link to the impact of exhibitions on artistic production and reception. Indeed, the relatively modern awareness of ‘audience’ that is now integral to exhibition-making arises through the artist’s – or artist as curator’s – cognizance of how artworks circulate and are introduced to the public. Without a doubt, a notion of the artist as curator precedes even a remote understanding of a ‘curator’ as the person charged with the tasks associated with exhibiting art.
As artistic practice continues to expand through trans- and inter-disciplinary applications of the curatorial, it has become a worry (for some) to establish where artwork ends and curating begins. For the most part, I find these debates sorely limited. In thinking about situations or contexts where we find the artist as curator, it is important to remember that the curatorial evolves through artistic practice. The curator emerges in a history of art, bringing different sets of professional circumstances along the way. What it is to curate has shifted towards further participation in the production of meaning. These shifts have led to a blurring of the boundaries between the artist and the curator, thus the evolution of hybrid designations. How productive these designations are, who profits when we attempt to clearly define the artistic from the curatorial, and to what extent artistic production has internalized the criteria for ‘being an artist’ and ‘being a curator’, underlies the complexity of contemporary art. For certain, pinning down the artist as curator’s work as somehow different has led to incredible insights, but it has also led to disparaging and conservative dismissals of certain types of cultural work. We need to be aware, as we heed the differences, what it at stake in the spaces where this work takes place.
*Art and Theory 1648 – 1815: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Harrison, Wood, Gaiger, London: Wiley-Blackwell 1991, pp.13
** For a more expansive discussion of the potential for artists to self-organise and self-initiate projects, see Paul O’Neill’s “Self-Organisation as a Way of Being” in the Professional Pathways section on the Info~Pool.
*** While there are multiple examples of the artist as guest-curator, I’d like to make a quick distinction between artists who occasionally curate once-off pursuits and those for whom the curatorial is integral to an art practice. In the present discussion, I am only interested in the latter.
By Sarah Pierce
Sarah Pierce is an artist based in Dublin. She is currently working towards a PhD in Curatorial/Knowledge at Goldsmiths College in the Visual Cultures Department.
This text seeks to be an introduction to how commercial galleries work, how they differ from museums or other public spaces, how they exist in the wider international art market and their relationships with artists.
Who is Behind Commercial Galleries?
Most commercial galleries are the brainchild of one or two people, and are founded for the most part by people who are interested in contemporary art or have a background in the visual arts from college or university. Most galleries are ‘businesses of passion’ and are run by somebody who is very passionate about the arts and who is often driven by specific personal agendas. Even though dependent on sales to survive, galleries tread a fine line between an existence that is also defined by critical context, based on who they show and why. The reputation of a gallery is based on the success and content of its exhibition programme and gallerists are hugely conscious of the responses to each show, both critically and financially.
Commercial Galleries V’s Public Spaces or Museums
Unlike public spaces or museums, commercial galleries ‘represent artists’ and these relationships form ongoing financial and creative working arrangements. These relationships vary in detail but broadly follow an established pattern with expectations and commitments from both sides that are well defined.
Public spaces and museums might hold solo and group exhibitions like commercial galleries, but generally they do not have ongoing relationships with artists in the same way. They do not (for the most part) sell art, but receive public grants that allow them to hold exhibitions.
Commercial galleries do not receive public money – they rely on sales to keep trading. Public spaces do not attend art fairs, which form a significant part of how a commercial gallery trades.
Being Represented by a Commercial Gallery
Representation by a commercial gallery is based on the principle that the artist makes the work for exhibition and the gallery sells the work. Commission taken as standard is 50-50% – i.e. 50 per cent of the sale to the artist and 50 per cent to the gallery. However, relationships are by circumstance much more complex.
Using their 50% commission, galleries pay for the gallery space, the gallery staff, the private view, the invitations and the promotion of the exhibition to the press. Artists make and fabricate the work and cover their own studio costs, as well as material costs.
As a rule of thumb, artists should never pay a hire fee to a gallery, and any suggestion that they should is simply wrong.
If an artist wishes to have a serious on-going working relationship with a gallery, then the 50% split of sales rule should always be used. Whatever the circumstances with discounts offered to collectors by the gallery, or any other reason, the artist should never receive less than 50% of the final sale price after tax and VAT has been accounted for. Discounts and tax are usually taken off the top of a sale before the 50/50 percent division is applied.
If the artist is seriously showing with a gallery then ALL sales should be made through the gallery and no sales made where the gallery does not share in its commission. This applies even for sales to friends, sales from the artist studio or to sales to collectors who approach the artist directly. This underlines how closely artist and galleries work together.
If a gallery has contributed any money to making costs and / or framing as is sometimes the case, then the gallery might ask for these costs to be deducted before commissions are calculated.
If the artist has special costs they would like to claim back ‘off the top’ such as printing costs with photography or materials costs, these must be declared before the sales are made so that gallerists have a clear idea of how the commission and costs might work.
Expectations of the Gallery
Galleries will have expectations about what makes up or constitutes a show. They will also have opinions about what they might be able to sell. It is important to remember that gallerists have close relationships with their collectors and walk-in visitors to galleries rarely buy work. Gallerists will know what the overriding theme of a collection might be, and what work might appeal to buyers.
As cynical as it may sound, the market shows us that painting, and by this I mean unique painted works on canvas, tends to be the most widely collected form of art, followed by drawing and works on paper, sculpture, then photography and editioned prints (except in rare cases) and then video and other forms of installation work.
It is worth noting that galleries are businesses and what kind of art you make, might affect your chances of achieving commercial representation. I think its worth looking at as many gallery websites as you can and listing:
How many painters are represented?
How many are women?
How much video / media work in shown?
How old are the gallery artists?
….and so on, so that you can get a real picture of the kind of artists that are usually represented by the majority of commercial galleries.
This exercise might not tell you what you want to know, but it is very important to be realistic and armed with as much information as possible before you approach any potential gallery.
Exhibitions and Art Fairs
The main aim of most good galleries is to hold serious solo (monograph) or group exhibitions (themed or subject-led) between seven and nine times per year. Galleries often have tight turn around periods for installation between shows and the average show lasts from between five to seven weeks.
Exhibitions are usually launched with a private view and oftentimes other events such as late openings or talks are held during the run of the exhibition.
Art fairs operate on a totally different footing. Galleries must apply to take part in art fairs by submitting a proposal. It is stipulated that all applying galleries must have an exhibition programme. Not all galleries get selected for the fairs they would like to attend.
It is generally better for galleries not to show too much work at art fairs and to keep their booth presentations as minimal as possible. This helps fairs appear as close to exhibitions a possible, though in essence they are not.
It is worth remembering that art fairs, especially international ones are very expensive for galleries to attend. Galleries are obliged to pay for their booths at fairs, as well as all shipping costs. If the fair is in a foreign country, then shipping and accommodation can be very expensive indeed.
Galleries will not show each artist that they represent at every fair they attend – they will be selective.
Art fairs also have a hierarchy, the best fairs internationally are considered to be Armory (New York) in March, TEFAF Maastricht (The Netherlands) in March, Basel (Switzerland) in June, Frieze (London) in October and Miami Basle (Miami) in December.
Artists and Art Fairs
In my view, art fairs are unpleasant places for artists as they often function as a great leveller of ideas. As a kind of Zeitgeist, they show internationally what artists are making and all at once. At fairs it is possible to make many more comparisons between international artists’ work than in other circumstances.
Collectors, critics and curators like fairs a great deal as they can see a lot of work in a short period of time. There is also a large social element to fairs where collectors can meet each other as well as meet the gallerists and museums who they support. Because of this fairs have become very important to gallerists and many if not the largest percentage of their sales are made at fairs.
It is worth going to fairs to look and gauge the market if you are an artist, however the worst thing you can do is approach a gallery at a fair. Galleries attend fairs only to see three kinds of people: collectors, critics and curators. They are not there to see artists and will look on approaches from artists in this setting as an intrusion. It is worth remembering that they have spent a large sum of money to be present at the fair and are only there to work on the things they have in their booths.
Galleries and Artists
Galleries tend to represent about 16 – 18 artists at any one time. They do this so that each artist can have a solo show approximately every two to two and a half years
Further to this, good galleries will have international connections and will arrange for artists to have exhibitions with third parties in other towns and countries. In this instance the commission structure can be different.
My gallery FRED operates the following commission structure:
|Solo show at FRED|
|Artist: 50%||FRED: 50%|
|Solo show at other commercial gallery outside London|
|Artist: 50%||FRED: 10%||Other: 40%|
|Group show at other commercial gallery anywhere in the world|
|Artist: 50%||FRED: 20%||Other: 30%|
As you can see the artists commission does not change from 50%, and the host gallery gets 40% for a solo show as this is a large commitment and 30% for a group show as this is a lesser commission.
It is worth pointing out the artists I represent do not have solo shows with other galleries in London unless they are non-commercial galleries such as museums or public spaces. This is because I operate as first or ‘home’ gallery to many artists and their representation has exclusivity to my gallery in the UK.
If a gallery is the home gallery for an artist they will receive 10% wherever the artist makes sales on commission and they will control all images and archive for the artist as well as consign works to third party galleries anywhere in the world.
How Do Galleries Find Artists?
Galleries find artists through a number of ways, which I will list below:
1. Through other artists. Most galleries listen intently to what their existing artists think as they are building a mutually supportive stable of artists.
2. Degree shows. Many dealers and gallerists will visit annual degree shows and MA shows, with a focus on particular colleges and institutions.
3. Particular selected shows. In the UK the most visited of these exhibitions are in no particular order: The New Contemporaries, EAST, Oriel Mostyn Open, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and so on.
4. Group exhibitions. Younger galleries often curate group shows by young artists. More established galleries often watch these shows to see who is up and coming. It is easier to become included in a group show rather then getting a solo show.
5. Through the press. Getting reviews or your works mentioned in any kind and every kind of magazine is a huge help as the art world reads copiously.
Understanding the so-called pecking order in the art world is VERY important when considering approaching a gallery.
For example, if you are a recent graduate, who has never had a show, it is very unlikely that a gallery that only represents artists who have shown internationally for over a decade will be interested in your work.
Also, if you only paint kittens, and you find a gallery that already has a kitten painter, you might also find that they feel they have that ground covered.
Galleries have careers too and are all at different stages. Find out where the gallery you like is in the pecking order before you approach them.
The most important point is to find out as much as possible about the gallery and the person you are approaching before you approach them.
In my view sending unsolicited material to commercial galleries does not work. I also feel its VERY unwise to send anything to a gallery that you have not visited on a number of occasions. Gallerists can tell if you are aware of their programme and its good to have a strong working knowledge of what galleries show.
Attending openings is VERY important and cannot be underestimated. The art world is a large and varied place, and showing up and showing your face is important.
However if you are going to attend gallery openings a few words of caution. Do not arrive at some body else opening and talk about your own work. Never ask to show you slides unless you have an appointment and never at a private view. Its better by far to talk about the show you are looking at, and express an opinion about that!
The short answer of how to approach a gallery is to get to know them as best you can, and think very carefully about if your work would fit the gallery you like best. For example, young artists stand better chances at younger galleries, and its better to approach younger curators and writers to look at your work when you have just left college. Attending private views is a must, simply contact galleries by email and ask to be put on their email invitation list.
Applying to open submission exhibitions such as those listed above is also important as gallerists will see these and actually see your work if you are successful in getting in.
By Fred Mann – Since leaving Brighton University where he studied sculpture, Fred Mann has been involved with Milch, the non-profit making London based arts space, 1993 – 2000, run a commercial gallery partnership, Rhodes + Mann from 2002 to 2005 and more recently Fred London Limited, where he represents the careers of 15 artists. He has attended many international and national art fairs, published many monographs and taught and lectured nationally and internationally.
In recent years the definition of the role of the curator has undergone a dramatic change, and continues still to be refined and challenged. With this change there is also the associated re-definition of the relationship between the artist and curator. This implies a direct impact on the relationship between artist and audience. In this text we will look at some broad definitions of curator, and look at the benefits of the relationship between artist and curator.
What is a Curator?
The term curator comes from the traditional museum background. The role of curator/keeper was once seen as “One who manages or oversees, as the administrative director of a museum collection or a library”* derived from the Latin curator, overseer, from curatus, past participle of curare, to take care of.
To quote from FÁS on the key aspects of the curatorial role, ‘To arrange an exhibition, curators choose which objects to display and organise the loan of exhibits from other collections if they need to. They also organise the transportation, insurance and storage of objects. Curators make sure that objects are displayed in a clear and attractive way. They also co-ordinate, and in many cases, write and compile exhibition catalogues and the texts that accompany exhibits. Large museums or galleries often employ education officers to involve schools or promote tourism. Curators may liaise with them to produce slides, work sheets and demonstrations.’
Today we see curator in a much broader context. The presence of the ‘curator’ within visual arts both in Ireland and more expansively in the International context has increased dramatically in the last 10 years. The roles, the functions, the positions, and the influence that they exert has changed both their own careers and also has created a new form of relationship between the general audience, the artist and art institution. Art critic and curator, Michael Brenson best reflects these changes in an interesting observation. He posits the following as potential key characteristics of contemporary curators: ‘aesthetician, diplomat, economist, critic, historian, politician, audience developer, and promoter.’ **
Also, the independent curator is often the generator of projects that are interrelated to other projects originated by that same curator. They may be working without a clear programming policy or strategy in institutional terms but are also capable of interfacing with authorities and organisations in the development and realisation of projects.
The goal of curatorial practice is the best representation of contemporary visual art to an identified audience. In this there is a mutual symbiotic relationship between the artist, the curator and the audience. Through policy and research, institutions, biennials, and independent projects start with a concept of what is to be proposed by any programme of exhibitions and supporting events. It is fundamental that such research is an on-going requirement for curators. They may specialise in specific areas, and some may follow a number of artists, updating themselves on progress in specific practices.
To some artists, curators may offer advice on direction, and become a confidante to whom the artist may turn when in need of advice, support and even challenges to particular ideas or directions. This allows them to consciously reflect current artistic practice, theory, presentation and care in preparation for future exhibitions, whilst they at the same time deliver on the expectations of the target audience.
For biennials, interested parties may include government ministries, national institutions, local authorities as well as international event organisers. At the more local and/or independent level the curator may be working with an artistic director, or artist lead initiatives of a few people. From this we can see that different forms of presentation will have their own criteria for selection, be it political, thematic, social, financial, or historical.
The Artist / Curator Relationship
It is important for artists to have their work seen by curators. Outside of the given potential for public presentation of the artist’s work, there is also a valuable opportunity to engage in a critical discussion of their practice. Against the background of presentation, distribution and contextualization, the curator can offer direction based within a ‘world view’.
This form of discussion includes looking at the artists oeuvre in term of ‘aboutness’ with consideration given to the conceptual and practical layers. The artist’s own feelings about their work provide a starting point. From this deeper investigations into placement form a persuasive argument. It is not necessarily the case that the discussions and interpretations constitute an ‘absolute’ right, but may contribute towards a convincing, enlightening, and informative stance from which the artist may progress. At times these discussions also open up the potentiality that the artist’s work, when viewed with the eyes of the potential audience, may be open to more or different interpretation.
This form of ‘critique’ is a useful platform for further development of practice, and may lead the curator to introduce the artist to other avenues of thought, and on a more practical level to specialists both within and outside the arts with a view to furthering knowledge and opening opportunities of experimentation.
Developing Exhibitions and Projects
The development of exhibitions is also a critical aspect of the artist/curator relationship. The many forms of exhibition have the ability to present, challenge, provoke, and, at times, even prompt actions. This is an active facilitation and offers more than just guidance. The curator becomes an editor of what will be displayed, and how it will be shown to its best advantage within the context of the work and the theme to be portrayed. The decisiveness of this moment can become key in the success of the representation of the artist’s work to the wider audience, and may provide opportunity of assessment or extension of awareness of the ways the audience understand the artist’s works, and through that the world around them.
The curator also provides an overview of all of the factors that must be taken into consideration when planning. Looking at contingencies, understanding the potential for underlying power plays, and a knowledge of practicalities; the curator becomes a key decision maker and facilitator who leads and mediates across agencies responsible for the delivery of the project. Whether commissioning of new work or exhibition of existing work the curator is the central point around which contractors, technicians, and other cultural workers collaboratively gather to achieve their goal of presentation.
The curator also becomes a key voice in the presentation of the work to press and media. The preparation of media material is formed from a background of placement as well as the provision of the most basic details of what, when and where. Through networks of contacts with critics, journalists and fellow directors and curators, the curator can raise the profile of artists and provide opportunities for further presentation and development.
The curator may also agree with the artist on a strategy of documentation. Catalogues, monographs, or placement within a wider critical publication provide the artist with the means to place their work within a larger context. At the same time such publications become important research documents. It is crucial that the curator ensures that the publication is undertaken with a specific reason that stands on merit. Through the discussion the curator may dissuade the artist from entering into a publication cycle. As it is a costly and time consuming exercise it may be found that the financial aspect of the project could be better placed elsewhere, and publications deferred until a more important juncture in the artist’s practice. From experience curators will be able to identify the reasons for publication and to offer advice on circulation and targeted marketing.
We have now seen the curator and confidante, advisor and facilitator. We have also seen the curator constantly researching and providing opportunities both in and out of established consensus. Curators may choose to work with artists and audiences in a provocative and courageous manner. But there are pitfalls along the way. More and more we see evidence of heavy handed curatorial practice. Although denied, this form of practice places key importance on high level concept and the artist becomes subservient. This has led to the cult of the ‘super star’ curator and has caused much misunderstanding and distrust. It is therefore important that both artist and curator develop a common language and open dialogue. The artist and curator must communicate both openly and frankly, taking criticism and suggestions seriously. Through this, both gain the opportunity to identify demands, advantages, and opportunities.
The job of being a curator is privileged and not merely an assigned right. Therefore power games and posturing have no place within any professional definition of the role. It is also a position of trust. This trust is built upon experience and requires both artist and curator to work together, rather than in opposition. At times the artist may not be present during an exhibition and the levels of professional confidence displayed by a curator then becomes the comfort zone upon which the artist can rely when releasing their work for exhibition.
The mobility and reach of curators provides them with the potential for great influence. But, as time passes curators need to re-assess their positions. Areas of interest need to be addressed in terms of intellectual worth and value. Moving with trends, or purposely taking a stance against establish fashions may be equally difficult. Therefore the curator must be able to express and defend responses and opinions while at the same time recognizing personal preconceived notions. Heading down a focused path may have a short term advantage, however working with a forward view provides more open and sympathetic opportunities for the curator and artists that they choose to work with.
Curator Career Details – Career Directions
**Art Journal, Vol. 57, 1998
By Noel Kelly
Noel Kelly is the Director of Visual Artists Ireland. He is a member of the Irish branch of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), IKT the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art. For the duration of the Irish Presidency of the European Union 2004, Noel was appointed Program Director with The Slovenian Embassy in Dublin.
In this article, Noel Kelly, CEO Visual Artists Ireland, discusses VAI’s current experience of artists not being paid, or whose work has gone missing with some best practice tips on how to avoid this.
The business arrangements between artist and gallery have traditionally been based around honour; a handshake of mutual trust and respect. This system has worked to the benefit of both parties, apparently saving artists from mountains of contractual administration and legal paperwork, and allowing them to progress with their creative work, safe in the knowledge that the gallery/artist relationship is healthy and working to the benefit of all.
However, Visual Artists Ireland has seen an increase in this practice being taken advantage of by a small number of places that fail to follow sound business practices that they see as unnecessary within a sector based upon trust.
Cases of non-payment and works being mislaid are a constant complaint to Visual Artists Ireland’s offices. We receive regular telephone calls and emails from artists in similar situations. On most occasions the artist contacting us will know of fellow gallery artists who have been treated in the same way, but this does not solve the sense of helplessness that can set in when a relationship of trust goes sour.
Of course, we must add very strongly that this is not with every gallery. In fact, if we look at the gallery sector as a whole, it is a small number of galleries and individuals that are acting in this way. For some, it comes from a negative economy or from a change in personal circumstances, but it has to be said that in a lot of cases it is comes from way before the downturn and may be seen as an indication of bad management and a lack of understanding of the art market place and how to work with artists.
Our concern in Visual Artists Ireland about this growing situation has led to a series of discussions with artists and galleries to understand the reality. The following is a brief summary of our findings.
The first points that we must understand are that there are many people in the commercial and not for profit sector today that are working hard to promote the work of visual artists in a professional and caring manner. There are also others who have set up art sales as either a hobby or as an idea that came to them in a sudden moment of clarity but without any research or knowledge of what is required for such a business. The symptoms are common: a lack of payment, not returning telephone calls, accusation and counter-accusation, works missing or damaged, or unable to return work to artists upon request. As we deal with this situation on such a regular basis, we have a set of guidelines that we offer to artists. Part of these we now offer here.
The idea of showing and selling with a gallery appears to be the ideal thing; bringing with it that sense of achievement and pride that the public are going to get a chance to see and perhaps buy. Indeed, first conversations open up new ideas and provide support in terms of exploration and realization of different projects. This looks like it is going to be a long-term relationship between two equal parties; and let’s add that in most cases it is… Therefore, our first piece of advice is
Stop, think, and do some research.
Who is the gallery that has approached you, or that you have chosen to give work to? A very simple step that is often ignored is the investigation of who else is being shown by that gallery. As the Irish art world is a relatively small group of people who are all very well interconnected, it is a simple task to look at the other artists and find one or two to approach and ask for their impression and experience of working with the gallery. Does the gallery achieve sales? What are the terms that the gallery offers to artists? What is the experience of other artists working with the gallery in terms of support, payments, and exhibition opportunities?
There may be a sense of urgency in terms of agreeing to give work to a gallery, but instead of an instant yes, we recommend offering the qualified yes, and then taking time to do the above research. We advise artists to make sure that they understand what they are looking for when they are providing work to be shown and/or sold, and with full knowledge then decide if the gallery team are people with which they would like to work.
What are the terms of your contract?
Our first question to artists contacting us is to ask if they have a contract, a letter of understanding, or anything in writing. Unfortunately, for the most part, there is rarely anything in place. However, it is easy for artists to remedy this situation and when an agreement has been reached with the gallery, any terms and conditions should be documented back to the gallery in written form. We also strongly recommend that all work handed over to the gallery is accompanied by a letter of consignment, including photo documentation of the work. In this letter, the artist should outline the work and the condition in which it is being provided, the period of the consignment, reproduction conditions, and clearly state that ownership of the works being consigned does not pass to the gallerist or buyer until the artist has received full payment. Artists may also like to include other aspects such as representing the work in media statements, insurance, etc. Both parties should sign the document before works are handed over. Amongst other things, this will provide documented proof of ownership and the work’s condition at the time of consignment. There may be moments when the person authorized by a gallery is not available to sign such a document, or there may be reluctance to sign. By having nobody available to sign, it opens the potential that the document will never be signed. We suggest very strongly that reluctance should be a sign of problems ahead.
Keep updated on where your unsold work is
Taking a small lesson from stock taking in the commercial world, it is wise to check with a gallery on a regular basis (every 6 or 12 months depending on your understanding of a gallery’s turnover and based on your level of trust) about the status of the work they are holding on your behalf. When work is delivered send two copies of a signed inventory that is based on what has been consigned and not reported as sold and request that they provide a signed copy back by return. If they don’t do this, or refuse to do it, then perhaps it is time to consider asking them to return all artwork to you within a reasonable length of time (e.g. two weeks).
Building and managing the relationship.
This is where the confidence in a relationship comes into play. Building a working relationship involves open and clear communications. We find that if, for good solid reasons, the gallery may experience cash flow problems, the relationship will allow an artist to have continued confidence in the business partnership and will allow for solid negotiations to take place.
In some of the cases that we see, we find that once good relations become sour when communications either stop, or in extreme cases become abusive. Visual Artists Ireland always recommends trying to work through issues when there has been a good relationship. We offer to mediate and to build a mutually agreed plan for working out problems that have appeared. But when the relationship has soured and turned into an abusive and accusation filled battle, we find that for the most part the only area of recourse is through what can become, in a severe case, a prolonged legal-based battle.
But, what happens if this all goes wrong?
Let’s start with the premise that most galleries want to pay their artists, maintain their good reputations, and to keep everybody happy. We keep this as a given when starting to look at cases. Therefore, our first recommendation is:
Making contact with a gallery to look at the status of work, or looking for payment needs to be kept on a business basis. If started with a telephone call, we always recommend a follow up at all times with a confirmation email or letter. The ideal situation is to receive payment in full, but we also recommend looking to setting up a schedule of payments from the gallery.
The above is when working in a clear professional environment. Unfortunately this is not always the case, and as has been experienced by many artists, deadlines for payments are consistently missed, and dates and times are ignored, leaving artists both out of pocket and without work.
What to do next is more complex and we usually deal with it on a case-by-case basis. Our first question is always to ask what documentation an artist has. The first task that we set an artist is to outline a chronology of the relationship, showing works provided, and copying emails and letters that have been exchanged. This is usually an exhaustive task, but in this documentation lie the future solutions. Ideally, a contract or letter of consignment is in place. If not, and as can be seen on our info~pool site, Ireland places a lot of emphasis on verbal contracts especially in cases where there is evidence of other parties being subjected to the same treatment.
Once this chronology and gathering of communications is in place, the next task is to identify if there is a deliberate deception in place. If so, this becomes a serious case that is potentially understood to be fraud; the obtaining of work under false pretenses. This becomes a matter for a police investigation through the Special Branch. This is the extreme, but from recommendations from the Harcourt Street Gardaí anti-racketeering office, taking the above documentation to a local special branch officer may result in a criminal investigation.
More likely, there is no fraud, but it will be a matter of mismanagement. In this case, the first point of reference is to find out what is the status of the work involved. If an artist has been told that it has been sold, or the work is not available for return to the artist, the next step is for the artist to raise an invoice for the full amount due to them, clearly indicating terms and conditions for payment.
As this is a commercial transaction, it is worth noting that as and from the 1st January 2012, the late payment interest rate is 8% per annum (that is based on the ECB rate of 1% plus the margin of 7%). That rate equates to a daily rate of 0.022%. Penalty interest due for late payments should be calculated on a daily basis. (http://www.djei.ie/enterprise/smes/latepay.htm)
If a gallery is paid either in full or has agreed to be paid through instalments, but the artist has not been paid, the artist should contact the gallery requiring payment or to have the work returned immediately under the terms of their letters of consignment and the terms and conditions of their invoices. It will be a business decision between the gallery and the artist on how to deal with unpaid for work. However, going back to the original idea of the letter of consignment, the work has been offered to the gallery as the artist’s agent. This means that there is no transfer of ownership until the item has been paid for in full. Some artists will know to whom the work has been sold. Not many galleries relish their reputations been sullied by the knowledge that an artist or their agent may appear at a client’s door looking for the return of their work. This of course should be managed in a clear and legal manner.
The final destination, when all other avenues fail, is the legal route. Depending on individual situations, it may be possible to turn the matter over to an official debt collector, or the matter may require taking specific legal advice and end up in courts.
For the most part, artists are reluctant to go that final step, and we recommend it only after an artist has taken advice based on all of the evidence gathered as outlined above. But, it must be said, that the initial steps that we have outlined in terms of prevention may go a long way to avoid this.
If we are to see ourselves as professionals in our field, then the first step is to ensure that we protect ourselves at all stages of our careers. Our message is: Think before you say yes to any relationship; Document all aspects of the relationship and agreements; Communicate openly, clearly and in a businesslike manner – always confirming in writing or by email any decisions made; Be consistent and open with communications; and Act in a clear and professional manner at all times.
Finally, remember, you’re not alone in this and if you need any further advice Visual Artists Ireland is available for confidential chats and advice.
What is an Artist Residency?
The term ‘artist residency’ covers a broad spectrum of activity and opportunity for artists. There is no set format for a residency and it can take many forms and be based in a broad range of organisations. Residencies can last from as little as two weeks to as long as a year. Some are literally ‘residential’, offering artists both a living and working environment while others are less full-time, based around a studio space or simply a structure for engagement between the artist and host organisation. What all residencies have in common, however, is an invitation for an artist to engage with a particular environment and for them to undertake some element of their practice in this context. This invitation more often than not has a particular time frame placed upon it and a clear objective on behalf of the inviting organisation.
Who Offers Artist Residencies?
Many of the more renowned residency programmes are linked into galleries and museums, where a studio programme is run as part of a wider artistic programme. Examples of these are the Irish Museum of Modern Art , Kunstwerke and Smart Project Space in Amsterdam. These programmes usually offer a working and living space connected to the gallery and are generally offered by invitation or in partnership with a cultural agency. A few, such as IMMA, select from an open application process.
There are many organisations that are dedicated to providing artists’ residencies. Internationally these include Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, IASPIS in Stockholm, International Studio and Curatorial Programme, New York and Location One in New York, the latter being the current location for the Arts Council and Irish American Cultural Institute residency previously held at P.S.1 New York. In Ireland Cill Rialaig, the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and the Balilnglen Foundation are all organisations dedicated to artists’ residencies. Many of the international residency opportunities are again offered by invitation, often in partnership with cultural organisations, and occasionally by selection from open applications. The creative potential of international exchange between artists is at the core of these organisations and participating artists are deliberately selected from a wide range of countries. Organisations such as Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, ISCP and IASPIS provide participants with a well-structured programme of talks, seminars and promotion through organised studio visits with curators and critics.
A number of organisations were established to provide access for artists to a very specific context or environment. There are many examples of residencies offering artists access to remote and dramatic landscapes, Cill Rialaig’s position in a renovated famine village is one of the most notable examples of this. Similarly, Cove Park in Scotland invites artists to spend time in a nature reserve living in the log cabins originally used in the BBC’s series ‘Castaway’. For both organisations the remoteness and isolation available to artists provides the focus for the residency. Other organisations invite artists to engage with a conceptual rather than physical environment. For example Grizedale Arts’ residencies invite artists to participate in Grizedale’s particular curatorial focus of context specific projects staged in the public realm. They state clearly on their website that they are interested in artists ‘who present new ways of thinking’ and while the Lake District provides a unique environment for the residencies this is treated as one of many possible subjects for artists to address within Grizedale’s conceptual framework rather than a focus.
Resource organisations such as the National Sculpture Factory in Cork and the DAS (Digital Art Studios) in Belfast offer medium-specific residencies which are focused around a particular approach to art making with technical support offered for artists to improve their skills.
Increasingly residencies happen outside the art world and are often used by the host organisation as an effective structure through which to introduce artists into their environment to provide an alternative view on their day-to-day operations. ‘Non art world’ residencies most usually take place in public institutions such as hospitals, schools, libraries and universities. This type of residency may include a working space but they are more likely to be structured around a series of organised workshops, defined projects or talks that ensure engagement between the artist and the constituency of the hosting organisation.
What Do Residencies Offer – Conceptually?
Most residencies have at their core a chance for artists expand their practice in some way. Increasingly organisations are moving away from a requirement for artists to complete a body of work for exhibition or presentation at the end of the residency, focusing instead on the research and development of work. IMMA’s studio programme is an example of this and from the beginning a clear policy behind the programme has been the support of ‘the working process rather than the finished product’.
Studio based residencies, whether in rural or urban environments, provide artists with time and space to concentrate on work and develop new ideas. More remote residencies combine this concentration on practice with the opportunity to be in an extreme environment that will directly inspire work.
Many of the larger international residency programmes are based in cities with vibrant and active art scenes. Consequently they combine an opportunity to spend time in the studio focusing on new work with a chance for artists to position themselves in a new art scene. A key element of these residencies is the networking opportunities, such as studio visits by critics and curators established by the host organisation which is emphasised, as central to the residency programme. The mix of artists included in international residency programmes also offers the opportunity for more informal, less structured networking opportunities between artists. Connections between artists established during residency programmes can be an extremely effective way for artists to place their work in an ongoing international dialogue.
Residency programmes offered by organisations such as Banff in Canada deliberately try to set up a creative environment where artists are encouraged to challenge and develop their thinking. Support is offered for artists to try new technologies and a multi-disciplinary environment encourages artists to approach their work from new positions. Similarly, residencies established in universities (for example those offered by the Ruskin Lab in Oxford and Kettle’s Yard Gallery in Cambridge) allow artists access to specialist research that can directly influence their practice.
Grizedale Arts offers artists the opportunity to work closely with the Grizedale curators and support is given to make new work that may not be possible in other arts organisations. The Grizedale curators offer their expertise in fundraising as a resource for artists and help them secure funding for ambitious projects that may come out of research time spent in Grizedale. A deliberately flexible approach is taken in terms of time and some Grizedale residencies can last for several years as projects develop.
This artist-focused approach is also taken at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre where the artists dictate the terms of their residencies based on what is most beneficial to their practice at the time.
What Do Residencies Offer – Practically?
Most residencies would aim to offer artists enough support to allow them to take a break from their working commitments and concentrate fully on their work for a period of time. This support can range from the provision of a studio space to a more complete package of living space and a small stipend. Those programmes offering higher levels of support may ask the artist to guarantee a certain time commitment to the residency programme to ensure that the residency provides an effective break from exhibition and other working commitments.
Some organisations are in a position to provide access to a gallery space where artists can show their work. IMMA does not exhibit work made in the artists’ studios as part of the main exhibition programme but it does provide access to the ‘Process Room’, a gallery in the main building where the studio artists can stage small project type exhibitions of work in progress. The possibility of an exhibition is usually very clearly stated in the terms of a residency programme and is rarely something that can be negotiated as an exception to the normal procedures.
Resource organisations such as the National Sculpture Factory, provide practical support for artists to develop their work technically and access to specialist facilities.
The amount of administrative support provided can vary depending on the organisation but at a minimum most would offer Internet access and limited use of the office facilities. Those organisations dedicated to artists residencies would provide the most structured and accessible administrative support.
Fees, other than stipends are unusual as most support provided is in kind rather than financial (studio living space, practical support). However residencies that place requirements upon artists other than developing their practice (for example residencies in non art world organisations) should normally provide a fee in the place of some of the other support outlined above.
What Might be Asked of You?
These can vary from a basic requirement of a certain time commitment on behalf of the artist to participation in public talks and workshops. Residencies that position artists in non art world organisations such as schools or hospitals would normally have a higher level of requirements placed upon the artists to ensure that their presence is noticed and of benefit to the constituency of the host organisation. Requirements placed upon artists should be clearly outlined by the host organisation at the start of the residency but if it is at all unclear it is important that the artist ensures there is a clear understanding of what may be expected before undertaking the residency. This is particularly important in a non art world organisation where unrealistic expectations can be placed upon the artist.
Possible Gains and Benefits
These can vary widely and really depend on the reason the artist has undertaken the residency in the first place. The most straightforward and perhaps the most important is a clear development in an artist’s practice. This is not always as clear cut as a completed body of new work – many artists find the residency period goes very quickly and after a period of adjustment never quite find the time to make work but on return to their normal working environment are very inspired to make new work.
Wider gains and benefits can be an introduction to new international networks with other artists and curators. These connections are an invaluable means through which an artist can maintain an international profile for their work after returning to their home environment.
For many artists undertaking residencies in large cities, the chance to see a wide range of internationally significant art work at first hand is extremely beneficial and can have a direct impact on their practice.
Residencies can be very rigid and demand a total immersion in a new environment for a certain amount of time. For some artists this isolation from their normal working environment can be difficult for practical, personal and conceptual reasons. As artists’ become more established in their careers other commitments (whether teaching, family or exhibition) make it harder and harder to dedicate a significant length of time to being in a new environment and residencies are no longer a useful means of support.
Expectations on behalf of both the artist and the host organisation can be too high and lead to disappointment. Residency programmes linked into galleries and museums can feel very removed from the day-to-day running of the organisation and artists hoping for access into the gallery’s networks and level of operations can feel over-looked and secondary to the gallery’s main focus. Similarly, artists’ dropped into a non-art world environment such as a university can find it hard to establish the right connections to fully utilise the opportunities the residency offers. Without the right support an artist can be left on their own trying to make inroads into what can be a very closed environment.
On the other side host organisations can have an unrealistic perspective of the support that they are offering artists and what this can mean to an artist’s practice. Sometimes the provision of a working space or access to a unique environment is not as beneficial as envisaged without additional conceptual and practical support such as engagement with the work, introduction to new networks or access to office facilities. Artists can be left feeling lonely and disconnected from basic day-to-day requirements such as Internet access. Non art world organisations inviting artists to interact with them can easily have an unrealistic expectation of the impact that an artist can have, and again a lack of understanding of the ways in which artists work can mean that the lack of necessary support reduces the ways in which the artist can effectively navigate the organisation and make their presence felt.
Undertaking residencies can be an extremely useful way for an artist to create time to focus on their practice, find inspiration for new work and connect with international networks. However, it is essential that the context of the residency is fully understood before embarking on what can be a major commitment – the environment, support offered, requirements and likely outcomes all need to be carefully considered. A residency should not be undertaken unless the artist is confident that the context being offered is one that will be of benefit to their practice both conceptually and practically, and ultimately be one that they enjoy and find rewarding.
By Sarah Glennie
Sarah Glennie has been working as a curator both in Ireland and internationally for over 10 years. She moved to Ireland in 1995 to work at the Irish Museum of Modern Art where she curated a number of projects including solo exhibitions by Olafur Eliasson and Shirin Neshat and the major public art project GHOST SHIP by Dorothy Cross. In 2001, she moved to The Henry Moore Foundation Contemporary Projects where her curated projects included Paul McCarthy at Tate Modern, and Stopover: Graham Gussin, Hilary Lloyd and Richard Woods at the Venice Biennale 2003. In 2004, she co-curated Romantic Detachment, a Grizedale Arts project at P.S.1/MoMA and in 2005 curated a major new commission by Tacita Dean for Cork Capital of Culture 2005. She was the Commissioner of Ireland’s participation at the 51st Venice Biennale 2005 for which she curated an exhibition of the largest number of artists to represent Ireland at Venice to date: Stephen Brandes, Mark Garry, Ronan McCrea, Isabel Nolan, Sarah Pierce and Walker and Walker. She is currently Artistic Director of the Model Arts and Niland Gallery, Sligo.
What is a Studio?
A studio can be defined as a room where an artist works. It can be as big as a warehouse or as small as a kitchen table. When a studio is highly structured it becomes an atelier or workshop; but this can also happen on the screen of a laptop computer, depending on what is being made. When assessing what kind of studio is required you first have to consider the practice or the type of work that might happen there. Big messy sculpture is difficult to successfully produce in a small apartment. Equally, it might seem futile for a net.art artist to rent a warehouse space. Having said that, I know artists who do just this – sometimes there is an inverse size requirement to the size of the work made. The key point in understanding what studio is required is also figuring out what kind of space will be comfortable to work in. This is not always obvious. As your practice develops, your needs will change. Often, however, there is little choice available but it is worth considering some options before deciding what kind of studio to go for. There are exceptions to every rule and so bear with me while I attempt to cover the issues involved.
What Does the Studio Represent for Artists?
Ideally a studio is a place where art is made. Within the complexity of current art processes this can range from the place where the paint hits the canvas, blowtorch melts the metal or darkroom where prints are developed. It can also be the place where only the ideas happen, with the artwork realised elsewhere or fabricated by someone else. It can function as a small office set-up, where the administration and market dealings are confined to, i.e. not brought home. For most though, it is the place where work is produced, or at least somewhere to experiment with ideas and materials.
Very few artists are able to devote their energies full-time to their practice and often hold down a part-time job or two. Even artists who have reasonable sales need to do some part-time work elsewhere if only to provide a regular income, which is pretty impossible to depend on otherwise. As a result many view their studios as a kind of refuge from the outside world, and from distractions from others. The eureka moments can happen anywhere but the production or making tends to require a certain amount of space, both mental and physical. And even in these times of much hyped ‘post-production’ and socially engaged practice, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of ‘very’ contemporary artists who still feel the need for a studio space. It is a busy world and finding a quiet place to think can be crucial.
What Can a Studio Comprise of?
There are a wide range of sizes and types of studios in operation. Unlike the industrial sector, artists rarely go it alone and rent a small industrial unit to work in. For many artists their income from art is irregular and not sizable enough to allow them to set up on their own. There are a few artists lucky enough to have the land and money to build their own studio but this is rare enough. Most studios are group or collective models where facilities and financial responsibilities can be shared. These often originate with a few friends, possibly after graduation from art college, who are all looking for a space to work in. There are several of these types of studios dotted around Dublin city and many have been quietly functioning away for many decades. With the ever changing property market however, many of these buildings are available to artists at low rents only while the owner/landlord waits for financing, development schemes or planning permission to use the building or site more lucratively. With Ireland being the most expensive property market in Europe however, this has become more rare. For this reason there are some great studio spaces outside of Dublin and several artists who have sold their Dublin homes and moved West have been able to build their own studios, which would be inconceivable in Dublin.
Urban regeneration can also have a significant effect on studios, in terms of both quality and quantity. When, for example, Temple Bar was being redeveloped as a ‘cultural quarter’ in the early 1990’s, some of the existing studios were significantly renovated. However, other spaces were lost and some were nearly lost – artists using the spaces had to fight to retain rights to the building they were working in, as was the case with the studio building on Eustace Street. Tragically or typically, with many regeneration schemes, it is the artists who made a run-down area ‘funky’ and ripe for redevelopment who are often the first ones to be displaced to make way for apartments, restaurants and shops. Nevertheless, apart from that, landlords change significantly during times of regeneration, hopefully for the better. The speculative landowner, who let the place run down, thus making rents affordable to artists, does not generally provide essential basic services in their rental agreements. A property development or property management company, however, should be able to provide all the necessary services, albeit with a considerable increase in costs and red tape.
Publicly Funded Studios
The publicly funded studio complexes receive funding from the Arts Council or local authority, which contributes towards the running costs, thus lowering the rent for the artists. Public funding may have only been provided to cover capital costs however – for example, renovating an existing building for use as a studio. Additional income from public sources means that these types of studios are generally better equipped but not always necessarily cheaper to rent. The more established studios get more funding, thus helping sustain them further. Younger studios, while possibly more flexible to work with, run the risk of a short life span with inadequate, if any, public funding to sustain and encourage growth. The funding therefore determines how the studios operate and to what extent they can support their artists.
Many artists opt for low cost, low red tape situations, as places are limited in the publicly funded or more established studios. Artist-led spaces may be easier to get into but they tend to be dictated by precarious financial circumstances. While this enables you to just move in and get going as quickly as possible, the downside is that you may be surrendering important rights in the process.
With any rental situation it is vital that a lease or rental agreement document exists. Despite the ease of word of mouth or casual arrangements, you need to know that your tenure is secure for a particular period of time and that the landlord is not going to ‘skip’ your studio once there is a better offer or if redevelopment opportunities arise. With most group or communal studios leases are the norm. It is the renewal of the lease that differs between places as some institutions have a limited time period for individual artists. This mainly happens with institutions that receive major Arts Council funding, as certain operational objectives have to be enacted, the main one being a three-year limit on each artist’s studio, so as to allow others the opportunity to avail of the services offered. Again, this is not always the case as funding is different for every space (because they are all quite different) and at present it is not possible to expect compliance when there is not a level playing field. Funding and politics are closely connected in the studios sector as a result.
There are many different models in operation across the country. For the most part they all charge rent and even if they don’t there can be hidden costs, like having to re-locate to a particular place to take up a studio award or residency opportunity. Equally, some private spaces can offer low cost rents but very little long-term security or even basic insurance. A typical scenario is when artists rent a building that is shortly to be redeveloped. The owner is happy to have someone occupy the space for security reasons rather than renting at full commercial value, which would be impossible anyway because of the state of disrepair. This can yield fantastic spaces that can range from fine Georgian houses to modern office spaces stuck in a real estate limbo. Again, the downside is that they are generally very short-term and often very cold in the winter.
Some group studios are commercial endeavours and therefore profit making businesses. There have been and continue to be some fairly unscrupulous studio managers/landlords who provide the minimum services and facilities, with no security, insurance or support, for the same going rate as other better managed places. With the booming property market in Ireland it is becoming more difficult to find low cost spaces and as a result there are opportunities for artists to be exploited, especially those who do not have much experience or knowledge of studio practices.
The differences between well run spaces and others comes down to basic issues of security of lease, but also important are working environment concerns like insurance liability and health and safety. Unfortunately, however, the latter two elements are rarely thought of or dealt with in many studios as artists just want to get on with what they do. It is better then to look for a studio set-up that has decent management, at the very least keeping corridors clear, removing rubbish, checking fire extinguishers, providing doors to enclose spaces fully, etc. There are many health and safety regulations ignored in most studio complexes as the funds just do not exist to fit out these places properly. It would be wrong to be alarmist about these places being hazardous in any serious way but with the increasing regulation in this area it is something that needs to be reviewed seriously by the studio community as a whole.
What are the Different Types of Studios?
As I mentioned above, a studio can range from a large warehouse to a small desk. In fact there are some studio complexes like Cell in London that rent desk space rather than an enclosed room. This recent development acknowledges that not all artists need physical space to work in, just somewhere to focus and put the head down.
Communal studios offer many advantages to individual artists. Apart from the shared kitchen or canteen area, equipment and facilities can be bought by the group or simply shared. Examples of this include photographic darkrooms or printing presses. Some studios have developed into or were set up as medium specific spaces, like the Black Church Studios in Temple Bar, which mainly caters to print makers. Similarly, there are other complexes, which have mainly illustrators or animators, others that have metal fabricators and others that only contain painters. When like-minds congregate they obviously can share expertise and contacts also. Networking is too strong a word to use in this instance as it is generally quite casual and social rather than premeditated and aggressive. The beauty of a studio complex is also that you can shut the door and ignore all this if you need to.
Why Might You Want a Studio?
When deciding on getting a studio you need to consider firstly how much time you have to devote to the space or rather how much you need. As a break from the home environment it is sometimes great to remove the clutter of tools and supplies from the spare room or kitchen table. A studio can also be a great central storage area for artworks. Having said that Flax Studios in Belfast was burnt down a few years ago and some artists lost all their work. However, this also happened at MOMART in London, which is a professional authority on the handling of fine arts and antiquities!
Production requirements are different with every artist and sometimes commissions or projects arise that require a bigger space to work in. One temporary solution is facilities like the National Sculpture Factory in Cork, Leitrim Sculpture Centre or the Fire Station Artist’s Studios in Dublin. These facilities offer temporary rental space within a large workshop area which is mainly used by artists working on large public sculpture projects, but also by artists working on individual large-scale projects that cannot fit in their regular studio space. The ongoing rental commitment to a studio complex can become quite a burden if income is not being regularly generated by the art or coming from elsewhere and so it is worth looking into such temporary spaces only if there is a specific project that needs working on.
What Kind of Studio Will Suit Your Practice?
Generally a reasonable sized room is what is on offer in most studios, anywhere from 10 square metres to 50 square metres. As discussed above, certain communal studios have specific facilities. These differ from place to place so some will have great computer equipment, some will have none at all, some will have a darkroom, printmaking equipment, power tools or cutting equipment, ventilation or extraction fans, kilns, etc. It all depends on the material and processes you are using so it is important to check beforehand to see what is available. Obviously there is a greater choice in a larger city but then there is also greater competition in getting a place in any complex.
Some studios also have gallery spaces. This can offer a chance to see and participate in a gallery programme but securing an exhibition space is more difficult and functions under a different range of curatorial parameters. For the most part it is rare that studio artists will automatically get to show in the studio gallery. Typically the gallery is separately managed and funded as is the case with Temple Bar Gallery or spaces in London like Chisenhale or Delfina. These three exhibition spaces started off as studio gallery spaces but over the years developed their programming or expanded their curatorial remit beyond their founders. A recent development in Dublin is the rental gallery with spaces like Monstertruck, La Catedral Back Loft or the Crow Gallery who all charge a rental fee for the use of their exhibition space. While this is the norm in countries like Australia, where the artist gets charged for the use of the gallery for an exhibition, it is not here. Non-private galleries receive public funding that requires them to give the exhibiting artist an honorarium but this is not the case with private spaces. Broadstone XL is a different and more diverse space which is modelled more as a research and development unit. The space hosts exhibitions but the large space is also used for theatrical rehearsals and other mixed uses.
One other type of studio is the residency. These are short-term awards in studio complexes that offer a space to work in a unique location like the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Tyrone Guthrie Centre or the Fire Station Artist’s Studios. These are competitive or open submission awards, and rental fees are generally well subsidised or even waived in some cases. The main expense can be in re-locating to somewhere else for a short period of time, from a few weeks to a few months, as bills will still have to be paid in your permanent place of residence. There are many residency opportunities outside of Ireland however these require additional travel and subsistence funding as well. Again, there are a few fantastic set ups like IASPIS in Stockholm but it is by invitation only.
When is the Right Time to Get a Studio?
When considering getting a studio you have to have the finances in place to pay the rental on an ongoing basis and have the time to utilise it appropriately. Some artists initially give themselves six months in a studio complex to see if they like it and if it is productive. As long as the studio has 24-hour 7-day access you can fit it in around your daily schedule. If you are a 9 to 5 working artist all the better, but this is rare. Having an upcoming exhibition is obviously a good incentive to get a studio but so is an objective of applying for one. Extracting yourself from the home environment can be the kick you need to formulate a solid body of work for a show or proposal. Again, it does take a certain kind of commitment to develop a routine where you are there, working or thinking, but being productive in some way.
By Alan Phelan
Alan Phelan is an artist from Dublin. He studied Communication Studies at Dublin City University followed by a Masters degree in Imaging Arts (Photography) at Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. He has exhibited widely in Ireland and in the UK, USA, Germany, Denmark and Slovenia. Recent solo exhibitions include The Lab, Dublin and Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown (2006). Recent group exhibition include ‘Fresh: reimagining the collection’, LCGA, Limerick and West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen; ‘Mother’s Ruin’, Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin; ‘Test Pieces and Blend-in Moments’, SKC Gallery, Belgrade (2006); ‘Strata’, Kells, Ireland and Pontrhydfendigaid, Wales; ‘Felons’, RHA, Dublin (2005); ‘Small: The Object in Film, Video and Slide Installation’, Whitney Museum, New York and ‘No Respect’, Dublin. (2004). He has written several catalogue essays on other artists and has published texts in CIRCA, Contexts and Source. He also had a regular column in the Visual Artists News Sheet and was the curator/editor for Printed Project, issue five, which was launched at the Irish Pavilion for the Venice Biennale (2005). He is represented by Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin.
The first of a two-part series, this talk was directed at Emerging Visual Artists currently seeking studio space. This was an opportunity to gain insight into established studio organisations and the experiences of the associated studio artists.
Few artists can afford the expense of owning their own studio, particularly at the start of their careers. Working with a group of artists can be a viable economic alternative with the additional advantage of shared information, expertise, facilities and resources. Setting up a studio in Ireland today is a tricky business. Property prices are at a premium and even if you find a space, holding on to it may not be that simple. This practical guide is intended to equip practising artists with some general information and advice needed to set up a studio group.
Before you start looking for a space to develop, it is worth spending some time thinking about the type of studio you need. A great way to start this process, would be to read artist Alan Phelan’s text, ‘I’m thinking of getting a Studio’, which you will find in the Professional Pathways section of the info~pool.
Although it may take time to find the space that’s right for your needs, your budget will often determine the level of compromise between what you want and what you can afford.
You may have to respond quickly to an opportunity that arises unexpectedly, or you may have the time to research a variety of possible spaces – in either case having a relatively clear idea of what you really need from a studio will focus your search when looking for space. If you are planning to work with a group of artists there are some basic questions you may wish to consider in advance.
It is worth considering these issues before you start, as they will impact on the kind of studio space you will create. Even though you may share similar interests with others in the group and you may be the best of friends, your needs may conflict with theirs depending on the type of work you do. If for example you work with chemicals and industrial equipment, you will have different needs from someone that works with photography, paint, digital equipment or whose practice is primarily research based. Dust, sound, smells and noise can be disruptive features of a shared working environment. It is possible to find solutions to these problems when designing your space so as to accommodate a range of work practices, however this will depend on the budget you have available and the time provided in your tenancy agreement to develop the studio.
Whilst a degree of flexibility is necessary, the sustainability of the project will also depend on the group’s ability to manage the studio effectively; how decisions are made and how the fundamental issue of managing responsibility for the project is dealt with. Consider whether you would prefer to share this with a group, perhaps go it alone or within a partnership agreement. Either way you will need to consider the long-term legal and financial implications of managing a group studio and how to balance the time needed to run the space with time for your own studio practice.
Visiting other studios will give you a sense of what is possible and the opportunity to learn more about what is actually involved in running a studio. An excellent way to test your ideas in advance is by talking through your project with someone who has either found solutions to problems or discovered mechanism’s to deal with some of the challenges you may encounter. Valuable information can be gained from the experience of existing studio groups. The legal and financial responsibilities for a studio workspace take effect from the very start of the project. Contracts have to be signed, bills have to be paid, common areas need to
be kept in order, studios need to be allocated, rubbish needs to be disposed of, things need to be fixed and conflicts need to be resolved.
Other issues might include:
Talk with other artists about their experiences with studios both good and bad, in order to establish a direction for your project and to assess potential problems in advance. Knowing what doesn’t work as well as what does, can be useful information when deciding the structure of your studio.
When deciding to set up a studio, there are several options open to you, each with its own particular benefits and risks. You may decide to work with a group of other artists, with just one or two partners or perhaps on your own. In many ways setting up a studio can be like setting up a small business – you need to know who your partners are, the level of commitment they are willing to invest in the studio and their ability to take responsibility in a group venture.
The scale of your project and the length of tenancy available to you will inevitably influence a number of key decisions,
both in terms of the physical space and the number of artists involved. A larger space will require more artists being involved in order to spread the cost of operating the studios. Over an extended period of time there will be greater demands made on the studio administration to monitor both the financial commitments of the studio and the physical maintenance of the space. Maintenance responsibilities will involve addressing general wear and tear, electrics, plumbing, heating, keys, locks, security – all the usual stuff that comes with a building over time.
With less space to manage and maintain, smaller group studios will have lower overheads and will not be as exposed to financial risk should one or two individuals decide to leave the group. It will be easier to find a suitable replacement for the missing share of the operating costs.
Larger studio groups can experience a higher turnover of artists. This places a greater demand on the administrative resources of the studio to find suitable replacements for empty studios or to monitor sub letting arrangements. The administation must also monitor individual artist arrears in rent and utilities (Gas & ESB).
Good results are relatively easy to accommodate. It is when you have to resolve unexpected problems that the core structure and foundations of your studio group will come into focus and you will need to consider issues of power, responsibility, benefits and risks that are implicit within a studio group from the start.
Try to consider the early stages of the studio’s development and any associated ‘teething problems’ as an opportunity to discover how the studio will work best, given the circumstances and what’s available to you at that time. In Ireland the type of studio group structures in operation are as diverse and complex as the buildings they occupy. Generally they fall into five practical models or types of structure.
The responsibility of any studio group is to work out how you are going to operate the studio, the work that needs to be done regularly and who’s going to do it? Rather than go into too much detail, I’ve summarised the basic outline of a potential studio structure with examples for reference.
*Group Studios with Shared Responsibilities
Sharing equal responsibility with all members of a group can increase your immediate resources in terms of simplicity, budgets and people to work with. It may also mean that you are depending on each individual participant to contribute to the initial business of setting up and eventual responsibility for the workspace. For smaller groups, advantages can be found by creating simple systems to share the work involved in paying bills and keeping the space in order – for example by setting a fixed term for each member of the group to attend to the administration or offering reduced rent to a group member in exchange for work undertaken. Developing studios in a rural location using this model has its own rewards but can incur different pressures to its urban equivalent.
Cork Artists Collective, Cork
New Art Studio, Dublin
Visual Arts Centre, Dublin
Stoney Batter Studio, Dublin
Belmont Mill Artists Studios, Co. Offaly
*Artist-led Group Studios with a Board of Management
This can be a way of developing a larger space for studios with a core group, who take responsibility for the legal and financial management of the space whilst offering studio space for rent to non-members of the group.
Art Space Studios, Galway
Backwater Artists Group, Cork
Flax Art Studios, Belfast
* Independent Artist-Led Initiatives
Independent artist-led initiatives that are managed by an individual or partnership can be a way of responding to an opportunity to develop a space quickly without having to wait for approval from a large group of diverse and individual stakeholders. In this situation, the individual or partners take complete responsibility for the studio and will offer studio space to rent to other artists under their particular terms of agreement.
Broadstone Studios, Dublin
Common Place, Dublin
Pallas Studios, Dublin
*Partnerships with Other Organisations
Another type of development for studio space involves finding an organisation locally that is willing to barter space for services from the group. This could be with a local authority, a local business, a health centre or a community group. In this situation an agreement to exchange services for studio space within a specific timeframe can be negotiated with a host organisation that is willing to avail of the artist’s specialised skills and expertise. The group could offer the provision of services like workshops or classes, possibly organising an annual event or exhibition with specialised groups during the period of time the studio is housed by the host or partnership organisations.
Contact Studios, Limerick
The Dock, Co. Leitrim
*Specialist Group Studios
These are studios that are set up to provide resources or facilities for a specific art form. If your work requires access to particular equipment e.g. graphic and printing equipment, construction and fabrication equipment or expensive digital technology, then pooling your resources and sharing the equipment is a way to generate access to tools you may not be able to afford individually.
Black Church Print Studio, Dublin
Limerick Printmakers, Limerick
The factors that will affect the choice of structure / model you opt for are relative to the number of people involved, the resources you have available, the physical scale of the space and in particular the length of tenancy you can secure from a potential landlord. There is little point in creating an elaborate management structure if you can only secure the space for a limited period of time. Equally it would be unwise to invest a lot of time, money and energy into a space that you will have to vacate before you can get any realistic return from your investment.
In view of the limited availability of space within most urban environments in Ireland today and their associated prohibitive costs, working with smaller groups in the beginning can be a much simpler way of managing your project whilst establishing stability within the group. It is not necessary, and in many cases not possible, to know every detail of how you will operate the studios from the start – this is something that will evolve organically and is relative to the concerns of the group involved. However when renting space collectively it is essential that you establish from the start who is taking responsibility for the legal and financial obligations associated with any rental agreement or legal contracts.
When working with a small group of artists, it may not be necessary to formulate a legal identity for the group unless entering into legal contracts. The group can simply agree the ground rules of how you will conduct business together. Having a formal legal structure is advantageous if you intend trying to source financial support for the studio in the future. A formal legal structure presents a clearly identifiable legal commitment to mange any potential funding offers in a responsible manner. This equally applies when signing lease agreements; a building owner or property agent will normally request either an individual to sign or a group with a legal identity that can be held accountable for the terms of the contract.
Demonstrating accountability to potential funding agencies and the measures that have been taken to limit legal liability should things go wrong, is an essential requirement of all funding applications. The reason you need to demonstrate accountability is to assure potential stakeholders that you have taken the appropriate steps to safeguard the studio as an organisation; that the activities of the studio are legal; and that all financial activities are regularly monitored and recorded.
Choosing a legal structure is not of itself difficult, but it is not always clear what is most appropriate for development, and trying to change later on can cause difficulties. The issue should be thought out carefully and discussed with a professional adviser.
An excellent source of information in this regard is Create, the National Development Agency for Collaborative Arts. It provides a comprehensive advice and support service to artists and arts organisations working collaboratively with communities of place and / or interest, which in many ways is what a studio constitutes. They have a Professional Development advice and information service, as well as project management and consultancy services. You can arrange an advisory session with a staff member to help guide you through some of the basic legal requirements. Membership is recommended for on-going support services.
There is no standard organisational or legal form for non-profit groups in Ireland – there are different types of legal structure to suit different kinds of organisations and situations. A group needs a structure to work properly; it sets out basic rules and relationships for management.
The main options, and relative pros and cons include:
[table td1=”Structure” td2=”Pro” td3=”Con”]
[td1] Use own name for business as as self- employed sole trader [/td1] [td2]
[td1] Adopt a constitution [/td1] [td2]
[td1] Incorporate as a private company (single member) [/td1] [td2]
[td1] Incorporate a guarantee company [/td1] [td2]
A group can trade under any name it likes, provided the name is registered with the Companies Office. Registering a name is not the same as having legal status. It should be kept in mind that the owners of the Business Name are liable for any debts. Opening a bank account for the studio will require a certificate of the registered business name, if you intend trading in that name.
The studio business name can be registered as a partnership with all the studio partners named on the business name registration application. Registration can be made via the CRO website at a reduced fee for on-line applications.
www.cro.ie – Companies Registration Office, Dublin
This is the simplest form of legal structure for a voluntary organisation. It does not require registration. A constitution sets out the rules of the group and includes:
Any constitution can be easily adapted to suit the needs of another group, club, society or association.
The disadvantage of a constitution is that the members do not have separate legal status from the group. It is not really suitable for an organisation that intends to enter into contracts, to own property or employ staff. All the members can be held responsible for the group’s activities.
Other sources of information for draft constitution:
Revenue Commissioners: www.revenue.ie – draft constitution, draft articles, memorandum and lots more Irish Charities Tax research: www.ictr.ie – for up to date information on charities regulation.
The information on legal structures was generously provided by: The Irish Fundraising Handbook, 6th edition (2007), available from Create.
Finding a Space
To find a space that is both manageable and affordable will take some time and effort. As well as checking out all the obvious sources, like commercial letting agents, local newspapers, notice boards and e-bulletins; make sure to let people know you are looking as word of mouth can produce surprising results. Finding the right space may seem elusive, but by remaining focused you will eventually discover several possibilities.
When viewing potential studio space, you will need to know from the start whether you can afford it and if there are any hidden costs that you are not aware of, plus other important issues relating to access and safety such as:
Look at as many different types of space as you can before deciding which space will work for you and never sign any agreements or contracts on first viewing. You will need to look at all the costs involved and weigh up the advantages or disadvantages of the different spaces relative to your particular needs.
This obviously depends on where you choose to work, with different issues for studios in rural and urban locations. Circumstances tend to reverse for both; either you are in a rural environment which is much cheaper than its urban equivalent with lots of space available but limited access to resources or the latter where space is very limited and costly, but comes with extensive access to resources, facilities, critics, curators, galleries, institutions and other artists. You should think about the times when you use the studio. If you have other work commitments during the day and can only get to the studio in the evening, consider what it’s like to go there at night and how safe it feels. If you need to get large work in or out of the space, is there adequate access? Perhaps you will require materials to be delivered or work to be collected by transporters; are there any parking facilities or public transport services close to the studio?
Leasing / Renting a Studio Space
When you find a space that is suitable and before you sign any contracts, remember you may have room to negotiate the terms of the lease or rental before you commit yourself. It is highly recommended that you get the terms of the rental written down and signed by both the owner/landlord and the appointed studio representative. You may then refer back to this signed agreement or contract if issues of conflict arise. If you do sign a contract on behalf of a group without formulating any type of legal structure for the studio group, then all responsibility for the terms of the contract agreement will rest with you personally. Some guidelines to consider before signing any contract are:
Know your rights:
Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act, 1980
Potential Costs Involved in Setting up a Studio
Setting up the studio will incur costs at each stage of the development. Marginally overestimating the initial costs may prove more beneficial than underestimating potential expenses, as it will allow some room for unforeseen costs that you had not anticipated. These can be broken down into three basic stages:
* Setting up costs
This is when all the preliminary research takes place – travelling to view potential spaces, setting up meetings with the group or partners, appointments with agents, telephone calls, postage, internet research, stationary and the time spent communicating with your associates. Generally this takes the form of ‘sweat equity’, which refers to unpaid expenses and time invested in the research phase that is identified within the overall budget as a real expense. It can be recorded as a credit or attributed to individuals later in lieu of rent. You should consider checking out your local Enterprise Board who may support this phase of research with a feasibility study grant.
County and City Enterprise Boards
* Professional services
If you are able to secure a lease for the premises, there will be costs associated with that lease. You may require legal advice when negotiating the terms of the lease or to interpret particular details associated with legal contracts. If the space is bigger than 150m you may need the help of an architect to assist you with a design to get the best use out of the space, whilst ensuring designated fire safety exists from the building.
* Construction and refurbishment costs
The space might require construction work to be undertaken. Even if you can do this yourself or you have friends who will help, you will still need to account for the material costs of building individual studio units within the space, as well as electrical and plumbing services. If equipment needs to be installed you will have to look at where this will be located, as this will occupy space that may or may not generate income for the studio.
Apart from the monthly or annual rent, there are additional costs associated with operating the space:
Management and Administration
Once you have secured a space to develop as a studio, you now need to consider how you will manage the space. At its simplest, administration involves dealing with the day-to-day responsibilities of the space occupied by the studio group – controlling finances, creating a safe working environment, managing people, allocating space and making plans for the future in order to achieve the aims and ambitions of the studio. Managing the studio is about keeping it on track with your original vision for the space, defining a clear direction for what you want to achieve, whilst responding to various problems and opportunities along the way. Decisions need to be made and it’s important to know how you will deal with these issues as they arise.
You may decide on a democratic model where everyone has an equal voice; or you may identify individuals within the group with particular skills and expertise to act on behalf of the other members. As a group it is important to define your goals and build trust and support for one another. The decision making process should be clear to everyone involved. For this, you need to agree the ground rules for making decisions – will it be made by a majority vote or perhaps by two thirds vote? For a larger group you may consider setting up a management team or steering committee with a clearly defined brief of their responsibilities.
Communication is an essential component to either of these choices. If delegating responsibility on behalf of the group to a number of individuals then you will need to arrange regular meetings where the delegates can report back to the group on issues arising so that everyone is included and one individual cannot act on behalf of the group without the agreement of those involved. Simply meeting as a group will not guarantee an outcome and it helps to set a few ground rules, decide what exactly the meeting is about, distribute an agenda, limit the agenda to four or five specific items and agree a timeframe of one or two hours maximum. Having a clear agenda will focus the group and help produce positive results.
A lot of forward planning is required if you intend to make a funding application on behalf of the studio. You will need to plan for development in the following year, as well as provide a good record of how you have managed the studios resources in the current year. To do this you will need to prepare a mission statement identifying your aims and objectives, whilst recording all your expenditure and activities to produce a realistic analysis of estimated costs for future events or activities. This time consuming work is essential if you hope to secure any financial support for your studio. As a group you will have to decide how you will make these decisions and who will take responsibility for particular tasks.
Arts Council annual funding for studios is available by application, however applications from individuals or unincorporated bodies are not normally eligible. Equally, funding is normally only offered to organisations that operate on a not-for-profit basis. It is highly recommend that you contact the Arts Council in advance of your application for annual funding to seek advice.
You can find information on Arts Council funding on their website. www.artscouncil.ie
Contact information for all the Local Authority Arts Officers can be found in the Practical Listings section of this info~pool. Here you can source information on local authority support for artists’ studios.
The administration of the studio focuses on implementing decisions made by your management team and dealing with the day-to-day demands of operating the space. For a small studio group or studios with limited resources both of these work areas will overlap and it’s advisable to find a way to share the workload. Just leaving it up to the person who is good at these tasks is not necessarily the best solution, as there will be many demands on their time and the stability of the studio depends on it. General administrative tasks will include advertising vacant studios, showing people around, answering queries, communicating with the landlord and other tenants of the building, attend to repairs and maintenance, collecting rent and utility charges, dealing with the waste and rubbish, paying bills and keeping records of all the financial transactions and possibly organising group events and activities.
It is important to have a system in place for processing studio requests and applications. Studios with a strict application procedure do so in order to ensure a level of quality, commitment and professional practice within the studio. A standard criterion for studio applications requires three basic items in order to ascertain the suitability of a potential studio member, these are:
Having studio contracts in place is of benefit to both the studio artist and the studio organisation. For a new member entering a studio complex, it clarifies the terms of agreement between the artist renting a studio and the organisation offering the space – for example the length of time they will have in the studio, the monthly or weekly rent, a record of any deposit paid and what is required to vacate the studio. For the organisation it provides an agreed set of terms under which it will offer a studio, how and when the rent is to be paid, what happens if arrears or money due exceeds the deposit held against the contract and specifies the minimum notice requiried if quitting the studio. Adequate notice allows time for the adminisatration to find a replacement so that no loss of income will occur.
Although the term ‘rent’ is used in this instance for purposes of clarity, legally it is preferably to use the term ‘fees’ in studio contracts or licensee agreements. The term ‘rent’ can constitute tenants rights, which may create difficulties as the studio develops if new members are not involved with the core organisation.
When dealing with members of the public or renting space to other artists, it is essential to protect the studio by purchasing Public Liability insurance on an annual basis. Technically the studio is your ‘place of business’. Accidents can happen and, should an incident occur in the studio, you are liable if an individual needs to sue for damages.
Public Liability insurance covers any awards or damages given to a member of the public because of an injury or damage to them or their property caused by you or your business. It also covers any related legal fees, costs and expenses, as well as costs for hospital expenses. Premiums will depend on the type of work you do and the level of exposure to hazardous chemicals or dangerous equipment. There are excellent offers available from a number of companies in Ireland that work specifically with the arts sector. These companies are familiar with the type of risk associated with studio groups. It’s not as expensive as you may think, but essential should anything go wrong. Equally it is worth insuring your equipment, as often these resources are hard earned facilities and its best to protect your investments.
The personal safety of anyone entering the space and evidence of appropriate insurance policies are required by law. Emergency lighting and fire access routes should be clearly marked. Equally, corridor space and door exits need to be reasonably free of obstructions.
By Jacinta Lynch
Director and founder of Broadstone Studios Ltd. 1997-2008. Arts Council Advisory Panel – Research on Visual Artists’ Workspace, 2008. Director Roscommon Arts Centre, multi-disciplinary public venue 2001-2005. EU Culture 2000 Brussels – Visual Arts Selection Panel 2005. IETM – International Network for Performing Arts, Belgrade 2005. EU Culture 2000 Brussels – Visual Arts Selection Panel 2004. Danish EU Presidency – International Conference on Mobility in the Arts, Arhus, 2002.
Assistant to International Architect & Designer Ron Arad, London, UK 1989 -1993. Craft worker with Fornasetti Srl, International Design Studio, Milan, Italy 1989. Artist-in- Residence, Villanuova de Jiloca, Zaragoza, Spain 1988. Masters Degree in Fine Arts, New University of Ulster, 1984.
There’s a lot of information available on studios from a variety of sources. Researching some of the discussion papers on visual artists’ studios and workspaces will keep you informed on policy documents relating to studio spaces.
Arts Council Publications
– Visual Arts 2005 – background discussion paper identifying studio space as priority areas for immediate action.
Strategy Documents: Consultation papers – Artists Studios May 2005
Irish studio network set up to share information and support for visual artists’ studio providers.
Artists Studio Network Ireland
Arts Council of England
Arts Council of England funded Studio conferences in 2003
Supporting Artists’ Workspace’ June 2003:
– Creating Places, 8 July Tate Modern
– Opening Doors, 15 July Persistence Work
– Making Spaces
Supports the development of Fine Arts practice and provides artists with affordable studio and living space
Promotes participation and access to the artse
Studio organisation working in partnership with Newcastle City Council.
Provides affordable artists’ studio space in Scotland
Studio organization, Berlin, Germany
Bik Van der Pol – Nomads in Residence, a mobile workspace for artists
The Artists Information Company
New York State Artist Workspace Consortium
Worldwide network of artists’ residencies
The professional body for organizations providing affordable studios for artists in England.
The past decade has seen significant increases in the range of opportunities for visual artists to work on commissions. On one hand this can be linked to developments in policy on public art but in the main it can be accredited to artists who have continued to challenge the traditional perception of commissioning and public art practice.
Commissions can arise from a variety of sources. Artists may apply for or be approached to undertake private or corporate commissions. Opportunities may arise for artists’ projects in the public realm through publicly funded galleries and venues working in off-site locations, sometimes through organised events & festivals.
A sizeable amount of advertised commissions are funded through the Per Cent for Art Scheme which is operated in the Republic of Ireland. In the past commissions through this scheme were dominated by requests from commissioners for object based sculpture, along the lines of ‘here’s the site, here’s the money, now show me what you can do’ school of thought. Thankfully there has been progress and while there are still a range of innovative sculpture commissions on offer the scheme is now more firmly connected to contemporary arts practice.
Working in the public realm has obvious benefits to artists. Presenting an art project to a wide public audience – some of whom may not necessarily visit gallery spaces – can provide openings for new interpretations of work and ideas.
However working beyond the possible comfort zone of a traditional gallery or exhibition space also brings distinct challenges. Some of these are outlined here under the premise that to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
For the most part commissions and public art projects can be described as a process of dialogue and negotiation. This process usually involves a trinity of partners – the artist, the commissioner and the public. Often an artist has to invest an immeasurable amount of time in negotiating the best possible outcome for a commission. The success of a public art project can be directly linked not only to the quality of the artist’s idea and its connection to its context but also to how the artist has developed and maintained good working relationships during the commissioning process.
Nationally and internationally it can be said that visual artists’ often use the wide public arena as a space to exhibit, perform and construct art projects. This has led to critical debate and increased public awareness of art in the public realm and has in turn influenced commissioner attitudes to commissioning practice. In the past commission opportunities often focused solely on the product or outcome to the loss of the amount of time invested in the overall process.
Okay, this may be a bit idealistic for the average visual artist who is being instructed by a commissioner as to whether the statue of the horse should have a saddle or not but public art policy has become more supportive of artists practice and certainly more flexible over the past ten years.
Taking the Per Cent for Art Scheme as an example of this, in 2004 the first set of national public art guidelines were launched by the Irish Department of Arts, Sports & Tourism. In the document public art practice is described as being of “any form and can work within or across many art forms, such as visual art, music, theatre, dance, opera, film, literature, architecture, traditional arts and circus and street spectacle. Public art includes all aspects of contemporary arts practice such as performance, live art, multimedia, video art, sound art, etc. Projects can be of any duration, temporary or permanent and can be centred in an urban or rural context.”
This text aims to give an outline of the breath of creative possibilities which can be developed and commissioned in the public realm. The text further aims to give artists support for expanded practice within and beyond the sculptural object.
From a visual arts perspective it is worth noting that the inclusion of all artforms in the scheme was first defined in the guidelines but that a majority of Per Cent for Art Scheme commissions are still focusing on visual art. Visual artists may wish to work collaboratively with artists from other artforms and this is now supported.
The process of developing these guidelines provided an opportunity for artists concerns and experiences to be addressed in a productive way. Artists inputted to the development of the guidelines by asking for best practice principles to be clearly defined and recognised. These include the need to allow time for dialogue in the commissioning process; the early integration of arts projects; the need for artistic advice from the onset; the importance of a clear and creative artists’ brief and the need for professional project management through out the process.
At present low estimates indicate a potential annual fund of €6 to €10M available nationally through the Per Cent for Art Scheme for the commissioning of new arts projects. This gives a brief indication of the wealth of opportunities an artist may experience in connection to the development of infrastructure such as the building of new roads, hospitals, schools and housing projects, to name but a few.
The Commissioning Process and Artists Brief
The advice of the Public Art Handbook for Northern Ireland states that ‘those who work with artists should: contribute confidently, prepare thoroughly, collaborate creatively and aim high, and that artists should do likewise’.
The commissioning process can be described as having five key phases – planning, selection, research and development, realisation and review.
An artist’s first interaction with the process is usually through the commission brief. This outlines the commissioner’s vision for the art project and acts as an introduction to artists. Artists can get a true sense of the commissioner’s vision through the brief. If the brief reads as clear, creative and ambitious then an artist can get an early indication of what it will be like when undertaking the commission.
Equally, if the brief reads as overly prescriptive or tight then the artist would be warned that there is a strong possibility that this viewpoint will most likely remain during the commissioning process.
When designing the brief the commissioner will already have made a number of key decisions regarding the parameters for the commission. The commissioner can decide whether to adapt an open and flexible attitude to artists ideas or alternatively to set the commission parameters quite tightly.
Through the brief the artist will see how the commissioner has set specific boundaries on the commission such as preferred art form, site, budget, timeframe, etc. In a worst case scenario the brief will go so far as to dictate materials, colour schemes, themes and ideas for the project
This is what could be termed as the ‘Argos catalogue’ mentality to commissioning, where a commissioner decides ‘we want one of those, but not in that colour, and maybe a bit bigger…’ With tight commission briefs of this nature one cannot help but wonder why an artist is required at all and would it not be preferential for the commissioning committee to go straight to a fabricator with their own idea.
Fortunately commissioners now have access to more support than ever before to assist them in the process of commissioning artists. Resources organisations, publications, websites, guidelines and handbooks have all been developed with the aim of improving the process for artists.
Artists can see evidence of input from professional practicing artists where the brief lists the membership of the commission selection panel, who will review artists’ proposals.
A good example of recent commissioning practice is South Dublin County Council’s In Context commissioning programme which has developed innovative ways of approaching artists. For the In Context 2 series which began in 1999 the artists brief was deliberately left very open with the aim that artists would select their own sites, budgets, materials, timescales and the communities they wished to work with. This allowed artists to consider context over site and to carry out research subsequent to being appointed rather than prior to selection.
For the current In Context 3 series the local authority have developed this principle a step further by commissioning visual artist John Byrne to make a short film about the county to be included in the published briefing document. This aimed to give Irish and international artists an honest flavour of the people, time and place in which they were being invited to develop art projects through the eyes of another artist.
When reviewing a commission brief artists can get a sense very quickly for the commissioners’ openness. Artists have the ability to offer new perspectives on society and to tell us something we don’t already know. They act as observers, reporters and analysts of the time that we live in. A restricted brief offers less opportunity for artists to fulfil this role and at times requests artists to design purely functional objects.
Some commission briefs are set out from the start to specifically deal with issues of a historical or commemorative nature. Artists will see evidence of this in the commission brief and can decide if they wish to work in this way. If this is not clear and the brief contains an abundance of information on local history and folklore then artists would be advised to clarify with the commissioner how much flexibility there is within the brief for unusual or imaginative proposals, before they proceed.
Competition Methods and Options
Artists may undertake commissions through a range of mechanisms such as open competition, limited competition, direct invitation or purchase.
Open competition has been deemed as expensive and time consuming from the commissioners perspective but can provide a useful means for emerging artists to gain experience of developing proposals and projects.
Limited competitions operate where a commissioner draws up a shortlist of artists, often with the input of professional artistic advice, and directly approaches them to make a proposal for a commission. This allows artists to carry out research for their proposal and shortlisted artists are paid a proposal development fee.
Direct invitation or purchase operates similarly to limited competition but in this instance a commissioner may choose to approach one artist to develop a proposal or to purchase work from the artist’s collection for a set context or site.
For emerging artists or those with less experience of public art commissioning it is worth making yourself known professionally to the local authority or publicly funded galleries and venues in your area. That way should they be consulted on upcoming commissions they have the option of recommending your work. This actually happens more frequently that artists may realise and some of the major commissioners who operate limited competitions are known for always including a number of emerging artists or ‘wild cards’ in their shortlists.
Some commissions include site visits which gives artists a chance to view sites for projects, to meet with communities and sometimes to meet with members of the selection panel to ask questions about the parameters for the project. At times artists have experienced gaps between a potentially open brief and confusingly different verbal information at a site visit.
This can be a signal that the commission brief has not been fully clarified. A typical commissioning group deciding on the artists brief can include engineers, architects and construction project managers as well as artistic advice so the possibility for a difference of opinions is inherent.
If an artist finds himself or herself in this situation it is best to be led by the original brief and their initial response to it. By submitting your best idea you have the opportunity to build a reputation for creatively and intelligently responding to the brief.
At site visits artists can sometimes be reluctant to ask the questions they really want to ask, which may give too much information away on their particular concept. Commissioners may have the facility to take questions by email or by phone after the site visit. However if this is the case generally all questions and answers are circulated to all those who attended.
Selection Panels – The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth
Generally speaking a commission is awarded following the review of proposals by a selection panel. An exception to this is where a professional curator or practicing artist may be appointed to adjudicate on submissions and select an artist(s). The criteria for selection should be clearly outlined in the artists brief. Usually criteria would include:
Commissions may have specific criteria such as a need to consider an artist’s experience of working in community contexts and on education initiatives such as artists’ workshops or talks.
The number of individuals and range of expertise on a selection panel may vary. Ideally the make-up of the group should be listed on the artists brief. According to best practice guidelines the majority of people on the panel viewing artists’ proposals should represent artistic advice such as a professional practicing artist, arts curator, local arts officer or public art officer, etc.
It is worthwhile for artists to consider the breath of expertise on the selection panel when preparing a proposal. These could range from community representatives to local councillors and from engineers and architects to construction project managers.
I have had the experience of working on public panels with Garda sergeants, nuns and consultant paediatricians who all made very worthwhile contributions to the discussions and were very quick to spot the best idea presented.
When preparing submissions for a panel artists should remember that the panel may not be familiar with their work and should not presume they will be. Also when describing chosen materials or methods for a project these should be stated clearly without appearing to be condescending.
Selection panels usually sit for one day, sometimes two depending on the number of entries or level of detail in the submissions. With the right balance of expertise discussion is usually balanced and not dominated by one individual with an agenda.
The selection panel’s role is really to get the best idea and artist for the specific context. Selection panels are very thorough, wishing to respond to the effort made by the artists in developing and submitting their proposals.
With recent improvements in professional project management it is becoming common practice for panels to record feedback for artists especially to those who have been unsuccessful, which can be communicated to artists in a follow up letter. If feedback is not forthcoming artists can approach the commissioner and request it. This may go a long way in assisting artists in improving future commission proposals.
Once You Have Been Selected
This is the stage when the need to develop and maintain good working relationships becomes most important. An artist may have contact with a commissioning team such as engineers, architects or community representatives on a project for a long period of time. Sure the commission has an agreed and reasonable timeframe but at times these can be extended or delayed. So consider this team as a group of work colleagues for the duration of the commission. Working with a range of expertise such as these presents unique opportunities for artists to exchange perspectives and to develop new skills.
Once an artist is selected they either proceed with realising the proposal submitted or are contracted for a specific period of research and development. A research and development period allows artists to develop a proposal to a greater degree under pre-arranged headings such as engineering, landscaping, site and location, performance location, community participation, feasibility, etc. This period should be contracted separately to the main commission contact and be clear on deadlines, fees, meeting schedules and expected outcomes.
While the commission is being realised an artist may face certain challenges and compromises, such as the need for changes and refinements to the proposed idea. For example, this may be as a result of engineering advice be it from the engineer contracted by the artist or by the commissioner. These could be in connection with technical details such as foundations, weight bearing, wind loading, materials, suppliers, timeframes, etc.
An artist ability to negotiate these challenges again will be influenced by the working relationship they have with the commissioning body. Flexibility is often required by both the artist and the commissioner. Realising and completing the project to the highest standards technically and artistically offers immense rewards not just financially but also in terms of career development.
When proceeding to the main commission contract, this should confirm all the relevant details of the commission in order for work to begin. If required, artists can seek assistance with interpreting commission contracts from resource organisations, guidelines and handbooks.
This is also the best time to confirm who the artist’s lead contact will be for the commission in order to aid efficiency and to avoid potential differences of opinions between commissioner representatives.
In reference to working with teams of expertise, in the past the general perception was that when working with architects they would, in the main, be very protective of ‘their building’ or their project. This is not always the case and in my experience I have witnessed architects go to great lengths to support a clear and creative proposal at selection panels and to offer ongoing support during the realisation of projects.
Artists are advised to document each stage of the commission as it develops. In some cases documentation can be carried out professionally by the commissioner and, if so, the artist should clarify access to this at the beginning of the process.
Conclusions – This Much We Know
Artists should always try to retain the authorship of their idea while also taking the opportunity to push the boundaries a bit. This in turn helps commissioners to continually expand their perceptions of what commissioning and public art practice can be. Give the selection panel a creative surprise and, even if it is not commissioned this time round, know that you have given it your best shot. Failure can best be seen as a learning curve. On this, be wary of submitting the same idea to different selection panels and each time calling it site specific. The range of public art specialist staff has increased over the past number of years as has the number and range of public art projects being commissioned. There is nothing more embarrassing that sitting on a selection panel and looking at the same proposal you saw at a different panel a few weeks previously.
Commissions offer artists the opportunity to test new ideas with and for new audiences. They offer artists access to challenging budgets and contexts which may not be available in gallery or institution based settings.
Commissions can offer very worthwhile experience for your CV and push an artists practice in new and unexpected directions. They can also provide opportunities to realise ambitious work not possible in an artist’s general practice due to constraints such as funding or accessibility to specific sites or contexts.
Guidelines and handbooks are now in place and are designed to support the central role of the artist in the commissioning process. Artists should arm themselves with copies of these to be informed of this public information.
That said it is quite possible that the best artists projects and commissions that could develop in Ireland over the next ten years may very well happen outside of any published guidelines and handbooks.
By Annette Moloney
A graduate in Fine Art from Limerick School of Art & Design, Annette Moloney has been specialising in the area of public art development for a number of years. At present she works as the Artistic Director of Clare County Council’s Public Art programme. Prior to this her role as Public Art Specialist with the Arts Council of Ireland included membership of an Inter-Departmental Public Art Coordination Group, which developed the first set of national guidelines for the Per Cent for Art Scheme.
She has published writing on contemporary arts practice in a number of journals including CIRCA and Visual Artists Ireland. More than anything she tries to retain an artist centred approach to her work. She is interested in the many ways that individuals and societies use culture to shape their identities, including art, design, food and sport. She is a proud member of the Munster Rugby Supporters Club.
About Public Art
While all art should be considered ‘public art’, in general, we have come to understand this term to refer to artworks that are located within the public domain – outside of the traditional arts institution, such as the gallery, theatre or concert hall – and where the underlying ambition for the work is to engage in various ways with public audiences and open up possibilities for access to and participation in the arts. A critical feature of public art is therefore the interrelationship between the artist and the artwork, the context (location – site, social, geographical aspects etc) and the public (audience(s) /participants).
While synonymous with the Per Cent for Art Scheme and permanent public sculpture, Public Art is by definition much broader and more complex than this. Alongside artworks commissioned under the Per Cent for Art Scheme, it can also include monuments and memorials, landmark sculpture and works incorporated into architectural design. It overlaps into collaborative practice and new genre public art with its more overtly political agenda. It has always touched into the areas of community practice, arts-in-health and arts-in-education, where the priority focus is often on an active engagement of participants. To an extent public art overlaps with various trends within contemporary arts practice and where artists’ engagements with the ‘real world’ are lodged within the broad practice of everyday life, or which place an emphasis on inter-human relations.
Public art, is not the exclusive domain of visual art practices and includes all art forms and practices – performance, music, theatre, literature, architecture, street spectacle, dance, opera, multi-media, interdisciplinary practices etc. Sometimes, at its more radical or experimental, it supports a blurring of boundaries between art forms, encouraging cross-referencing and a dissolution of disciplines. Further, with increasing interest in artistic processes and the building of relationships, public art supports alternative agendas for experimentation and dialogue, whereby the art made might be considered more as a by-product of these relationships, placing an emphasis not so much on a finished artwork or site (architectural or geographic) but rather as Miwon Kwon suggests on ‘social networks or intellectual exchange or cultural debate’.
Patricia C. Philips, former editor of Artforum Magazine and currently director of Fine Art at Cornell NY gives a good description of public art and its scope –’public art excludes no media, materials, process or form, the work can be permanent or temporary, it can be commissioned through funding programmes, such as the percent for art scheme or initiated by artists requiring no sanction. With a broadening concept of public – it can happen almost anytime, with anyone and virtually anywhere…even in galleries, museums and private settings. Public art is always art’.
Who Funds Public Art? – The Per Cent for Art Scheme
Public art is funded through a number schemes and funding programmes including The Per Cent for Art Scheme .
– About the Per Cent for Art Scheme
– Application for Per Cent for Art Funding
– Pooling of Funds
– Public Art Specialists
– Public Art Advisory Groups
– Curatorial Advice and Project Management
– The National Guidelines
-The Per Cent for Art Scheme
The Government decision of August 1997 approves the inclusion in budgets for all publicly funded capital construction projects of up to 1% as funding for an art project, subject to limits as follows:
Local Authorities and Government Departments
While predominately utilised by local authorities, Udaras na Gaeltachta and the Office of Public Works (OPW) under the Department of the Environment and Local Government, the Per Cent for Art Scheme is available to all government bodies. The Per Cent for Art Scheme funds new art commissions for Housing (social and affordable schemes); Transport and Roads; Environmental schemes such as drainage schemes, pump stations and reservoirs; for public buildings such as libraries, public offices, schools, hospitals, medical centres; prisons; arts buildings – cinemas, theatres, art centres, alongside conservation programmes and urban and village renewal schemes. Other government departments such as the HSE and the Department of Education and Science have increasingly been commissioning art through this scheme.
The OPW has one of the largest architectural practices in the country. It provides a full design and project management service for public sector building projects, a conservation management and advisory service, and independent advice to the Government. With a considerable capital construction in place the OPW has a long history in commissioning art under this scheme for buildings such as Gárda stations, military barracks, prisons, courthouses, etc.
The National Roads Authority
The Authority’s primary function under the Roads Act 1993 is ‘to secure the provision of a safe and efficient network of national roads’. Its utilisation of the Per Cent for Art Scheme is often carried out in collaboration with Local Authorities. The NRA’s remit has been in general for permanent sculpture. www.nra.ie
Regeneration programmes which include both public and private funding such as Breaking Ground, Ballymun have been able to establish a considered and well funded programmatic approach – www.breakingground.ie. Other regeneration projects such as the Dublin Docklands Development Authority fund public art programmes through its own resources. www.dublindocklands.ie
-Application for Per Cent for Art Funding
The scheme is not mandatory and application for funding is made on an individual basis for each capital development by the project manager or chief administrator of the building programme, e.g. the architect, engineer, housing officer, librarian or school principle. All government bodies with capital budgets are eligible to apply. Application is made when submitting a building scheme for funding to the parent department.
-Pooling of funds
Pooling of funding is permitted so that budgets available for two or more schemes can be combined to create a larger budget for a commission. In the case of specific local authorities and regeneration schemes with potential for considerable Per Cent for Art funding, asystematic application for funding has been put in place and pooling of funds has enabled greater flexibility, supporting curatorial or programmatic approach to commissioning. Local authorities and the NRA (The National Roads Authorities) have also teamed up to support commissions across neighbouring county boundaries and create a more substantial budget for specific commissions.
-Public Art Specialists
The appointment of expert public art specialists in a number of local authorities has demonstrated a real commitment to public art commissioning and supports more comprehensive and focused programmes. It has enabled a consideration of a public art policy and the integration of mediation, evaluation, critical reflection and curatorial dimensions to support practice, artists and the processes. Designated specialists provide solid support to artists through the commissioning process.
-Public Art Advisory Groups
The appointment of a public art advisory group offers another level of guidance and responsibility. Advisory groups are generally small, consisting of between seven and nine people. They usually include external artistic advisors alongside internal representative from the commissioning organisation. A typical makeup of a Public Art Advisory Groups might include one or two artists, one curator, an arts officer, a public arts officer, senior management and representation from the architects, librarians, planners, engineers, councillors etc. An advisory group can be established to give support to the management of a single project or it might be established to lead or oversee a comprehensive programme.
-Curatorial Advice and Project Management.
In the case where there is no public art specialist or arts officer to manage the commissioning process, independent curatorial or artistic expertise engages a professional approach to project managing commissions. Appointment of such expertise can be through a tender or a direct appointment. Advice on procurement of curators and expert project managers can be sought through the Arts Council and artists resource agencies.
-The National Guidelines for the Per Cent for Art Scheme.
These guidelines aim to set out basic operational procedures for government departments, public bodies and local authorities who are implementing the scheme. They offer baseline advice for the commissioning of art in the contexts of capital construction projects and set out important guiding principles in the process such as the need for time to support dialogue between the three core partners in a public art commission – the artist, the commissioner and the public.
The development and publication of the guidelines by the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism is seen as a step towards the development of a national approach to public art for Ireland.
The guidelines where launched in 2004. They are currently under review and are available at: www.publicart.ie
Who Funds Public Art? – Other Funders
In addition to the Per Cent for Art Scheme, public art is funded through a number of schemes and funding programmes including: –
-The Arts Council funding programmes
-Local authority curated programmes and funding programmes
-Artists and Independent commissioners
-Independent commissioners and collectives
-Public Private Partnerships
-The Arts Council
As the Irish Government’s development agency for the arts, the Arts Council is the major funder of the arts in Ireland. Arts organisations, artists and groups working with the arts can apply for financial support. Relevant funding programmes for artists and groups include: Commissions, Bursaries, Projects, New Work. Such schemes are awarded through a competitive process where the standard is high and where individual practice can demonstrate a track record and or potential. The Arts Council does not act as a commissioning agent but rather funds, through an award system, individual artists and independent commissioners. www.artscouncil.ie
-Local Authority Programmes
There are 34 local authorities in Ireland. Individual local authorities fund programmes of new work that have a public art focus. Such programmes prioritise the artist and his / her ambitions for a specific context and are generally less constrained by other agendas. Such programmes include Visualise Carlow – a curated programme of new work; Art@Work, Roscommon, where artists make proposals to work within a workplace or industry in the county; Off-site Concourse, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown; Laois Sculpture Symposium.
Culture Ireland is the Irish State Agency that promotes the best of Ireland’s arts and culture internationally and assists in the development of Ireland’s international cultural relations. Culture Ireland’s principal funding scheme is designed to support the presentation and promotion of Irish arts internationally. There are four funding rounds each year – www.cultureireland.gov.ie
–Artists and Independent Commissioners
Artists have always been self-motivated and self starters. This entrepreneurial attitude is witnessed by their establishment of project spaces, collectives and small galleries and more recently curating projects – both in galleries and in the public domain. Public art projects initiated by artists might seek funding through local sources or through Arts Council funding programmes. Projects, as they develop, can gain momentum and be attractive for partnership funding. Artists might be seeking non-financial assistance or support-in-kind such as the use of a public space or building or promotional support or endorsement – the local authority can be helpful here. Where artists initiate such projects, they will retain control of the process, act as commissioners or collaborators and should be prepared to undertake management and curation of the project, forming links, finding sources of funding and good sources of support.
–Independent commissioners and collectives
There are no public art agencies or organisations in Ireland such as Artangel, Locus+ or Situations, UK, however, recently there has been the emergence of an independent sector of individual curators and small artists-led organisations dedicated to research and practice within this field.
-Public Private Partnerships
Public-private partnership (PPP) describes a government service or private business venture, which is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies. These schemes are sometimes referred to as PPP. As many of these schemes involve investment in public infrastructure and development, they may be eligible for percent for art funding. www.ppp.gov.ie
Private developers and businesses have invested their own resources in works of art for new buildings, development and urban programmes. Some local authorities have instigated development levies that contribute funds back into a local culture and arts fund which have at times been used for public art programmes.
Commissioning – The Process
Elsewhere in the Info~Pool Annette Moloney has prepared a complimentary text entitled ‘Undertaking Commissions’. It provides an introduction and overview of the opportunities and challenges that are presented to artists who choose to pursue the undertaking of commissions as part of their practice.
Undertaking a public art commission involves a commitment from both artist and commissioner and a good relationship between both parties is central to a good process.
For the commissioner the process can include: securing of funding; defining a focus for commissions; considering concepts; writing the artist’s brief; overseeing the selection process; appointment of artist(s); drawing up contracts; management of the process; documentation and evaluation.
For artists the process may involve: developing a proposal; preliminary research and development; engagement with the context; making work; management of schedule; budgets; organisation of others; documentation and evaluation.
In commissioning public art, the artist generally conceives the artwork taking into consideration the context and public(s) for which the work is intended and the criteria sought as articulated through the Artists’ Brief. A public artwork for a hospital is likely to have different criteria and scope than that for an airport, military barracks, library, roadway, or public artwork commissioned through a festival or arts event.
Commissioners of public art can consider a number of approaches and outcomes – from permanent artworks to more open and process-based responses in any medium or form that might be developed through a period of research, exchange or through a residency. While it is important to have clarity around what is being sought, it is also advisable not to narrow down options that support artistic ambition and contemporary practice.
Commissioning – Finding Artists
Finding an artist(s) can involve an open submission competition, a limited competition or a direct commission. It can also include purchasing existing work from an artist. A call for artists should be placed with artists’ resource organisation to ensure reaching the sector.
Open Submission Competition:
An ‘Open Submission Competition’ usually involves a two-stage competitive process, whereby an initial call for artists asks for a minimum of information – CV, examples of past works, sketch idea / proposal with an outline budget. In some cases, stage one will only look for an artists’ CV and samples of past work. A shortlisting process invites a select number of artists to develop their ideas further. Sometimes an interview process is part of stage two.
Artists should be paid a fee for stage two development of ideas. It is important to advertise well and widely through resource agency websites, e-bulletins and select art journals and newspapers.
Limited competition invites a shortlist of artists to submit a proposal for a competitive process. In general limited competitions are undertaken in one stage. Artists should be paid a fee for developing proposals. Limited competition sometimes ensures that artists who might not normally apply, might make a proposal. It is highly recommended to include curatorial expertise in generating a shortlist of artists.
An artist is awarded a commission. There is no competitive process. It is highly recommended that commissioners employ curatorial expertise to advise or give feedback on the choice of artist. In general, but not necessarily, direct commissions are offered when the budget is small. In ‘direct commissions’ it is recommended that artists receive a fee to develop ideas and have time for research before agreeing a contract.
The Commissioning Process – Responding to a Commission
In responding to a commission artists should ask, ‘Is this for me’?, ‘whose agenda is to the fore?’, ‘ what are my responsibilities – is it to the place, the context, the client, the audience, my practice?’. It is useful to consider how this commission might suit the development of your own practice and what is of interest to you as an artist here. Does the commission allow you to take a risk, try something new, or build on a body of work? Is it a good time for you? Are you ready for this? It is often tempting to apply because there is money on offer, but do not comprise your artistic practice when making a proposal.
Many public art commissions require a context specific element – producing work that could happen anywhere or any time has generally less chance of being selected. The key is to find some kind of relationship between your practice and the context, nature of place, its identity(s), geographic or social aspects, etc. That said, it can be misleading to suggest some sort of tick list formulaic approach for responding to a commission. Many good artworks are capable of transcending the specifics of a context and can resonate and connect in many different situations or contexts outside of the originating site of the commission or terms of the brief.
The Commissioning Process – Developing a Proposal
In developing a proposal give yourself time to think, write and prepare. Consider how you work best. What is of interest to you and how can your practice intersect with this commission? Can you commit?
In preparing proposals, visualising the process and the end result is always helpful – even if it is impossible to be prepared for all the challenges that lie ahead or obstacles that may arise, or openings that will support greater ambition.
What are the challenging aspects of your ideas? Is it in relation to the materials you will be using, or is it to do with the organisation and interaction with a community or group of people, or is it in relation to ethical issues and concerns. To help prepare, might it be possible to have a site visit or spend time in the place, ‘tuning in’ before developing and confirming proposals? What is interesting to you about this commission or what hooks might you use to develop ideas? Questions like, how will you manage the budget and is the budget sufficient for your ambitions are useful to keep in mind – as in most cases budgets are fixed and non-negotiable. It is worth finding out what on-the-ground supports might be available? How open-minded are the commissioners?
The Commissioning Process – Research and Development
Sometimes an idea strikes quickly, other times ideas come through a process of consideration and reflection. See if it is possible to build a period of research and development into the commission before confirming an approach or idea. Is it possible to give an indication of intent, a sketch of ideas and to develop a final proposal out of these initial responses? What projects or works by other artists inspire your approach and practice – how might you draw on these? Are aspects of the commission of interest while other elements seem daunting and off-putting? Might there be scope for a collaboration – to work with another artist, a specific group of people, employ a mentor, a mediator or bring in other expertise different to yours?
The Commissioning Process – Artists’ Brief
The artists’ brief is a written document that should provide all relevant information on the commission. Content generally includes the following:
Types of Briefs
There are many different kinds of artist briefs. The brief should be written to suit and address the focus of the specific commission keeping in mind a responsibility to support contemporary artistic ambition. A brief might be tightly focused and seek a specific response, e.g. a site-specific permanent sculpture or memorial landmark or it might seek an artwork in a specific medium, e.g. in sound, digital media or film. Or it might place a greater emphasis on community engagement and process-based interaction rather than on a finished product.
Other briefs allow for a more open response, giving greater scope for artists to respond in ways that are of interest to their practice. A brief may also be tied into an overall curatorial framework where a conceptual or philosophical framework is offered for consideration. In some instances artists have been invited to write their own brief. In general, and if it is possible it is good to issue a brief that gives scope and does not limit artistic ambition. The best quality artworks and projects are most likely to be achieved by artists who do not have to comprise their artistic ambition and practice.
Writing a Brief
In writing an artists’ brief it is important to be clear and not misleading. Background information might include a piece of writing about the context, but overt referencing may read as limiting – e.g. an emphasis on historical or archaeological aspects may be off-putting for contemporary artists. It can be helpful to get an artist, curator, writer or someone familiar with the nuances of the particular commission to assist or advise in writing the brief. Making the brief interesting and attractive to artists is likely to drum up a wider interest, as it is the first point of contact for artists. Consider what you are asking from artists, can your brief allow for scope and a range of responses, can your brief support artistic ambition? What sort of additional supports can you give and how committed will you be as commissioner to the process. The brief should include visual information as relevant and be helpful to artists’ responses.
Interpreting a Brief
The focus of a brief and the context are generally the most important issue for artists when interpreting a brief. Context asks questions of how you address the commission, define a concept and make a proposal. The focus of the brief will outline its scope and limitations and gives you an opportunity to decide if this commission is appropriate to your practice.
In considering the commission you might undertake a site visit, get familiar with the context. You might do further desk research through the Internet, books and related articles. You might look at and review other artists practice and the processes they undertook. The key is to find a connection between the context and your artistic practice. It is possible to find ways of responding to a more traditional or ‘tight’ brief – if the particular commission is of interest. Decisions will depend on the selection panel who may or may not be open to your particular response, but there are a number of examples where artists have been successful in proposing a project outside the scope of the original brief. If you are thinking of proposing something outside of the expressed scope of the brief, it is important to have solid information and possible sources of support in place. This can impress the commissioners and allow them to consider your proposal, even though it is outside of their initial intentions.
The Commissioning Process – Selection
In a competitive process, the selection process involves the appointment of a selection panel. This is usually made up of a small group of people. Panels usually consist of an uneven number of people. The panel meets to consider the merits of each proposal submitted and to make a recommendation for selection. This group of people is important and it is recommended to have a good proportion of artistic expertise on board. Expertise can include artistic peers, curators, public art specialists, and practitioners in the field of practice of the particular commission – e.g. an artist(s) who has worked in sound for the selection of a sound works. It is essential to have at least one independent professional artists on the panel alongside other artistic expertise – curators, critical thinkers, etc. Others on the panel might include members from the project team – architect, librarian, engineer, member(s) from a particular community, local arts expertise – arts officer or public arts specialist. It is recommended that the majority of those on the panel have art expertise.
Selection criteria should be listed by which decisions will be reached. Criteria for selection might include the following: artistic ambition and quality of ideas; inventiveness; appropriateness to context; ability to connect; technical feasibility; artists track record or potential; ability to deliver in budget and on time. Selection criteria should tie in with the purpose and focus of the commission and aim for high quality artistic ambition.
Submissions – Making a Proposal
Elsewhere in the Info~Pool Annette Moloney has prepared a complimentary text entitled ‘Undertaking Commissions‘. It provides an introduction and overview of the opportunities and challenges that are presented to artists who choose to pursue the undertaking of commissions as part of their practice.
Proposals might include some or all of the following depending on what you are asked to provide:
Clearly label all elements of your proposal and ensure you have included page numbers on all documents. Submit what you are asked for. Do not submit too little or do not overload your submission.
Submissions – Curriculum Vitae
A curriculum vitae is composed over time. Keep design and layout simple, clear and easy to read. Black ink and simple font is preferable. Present information relevant to what you are applying for. Some artists keep a master CV and adapt it to suit different applications. A concise CV of two pages is generally good. This means deleting older or less relevant material. Look at sample CV’s online or elsewhere to get ideas for layout.
The following is a sample CV layout…
Submissions – Artists’ Statements
An artist’s statement is usually about a specific body of work , your practice over a period of time, or it can track your career to date. Ideally it offers an insight into the concepts, processes, influences and main sphere of your work. It can run for 500 words or be tightly edited to 70 words. It should be clear and informative about the conceptual elements of your practice. The artist’s statement is an important entry point into your practice and you should give it time, be honest and explain big concepts. A different artist’s statement can be written or adapted for different situations and applications.
An Artist’s Statement might include:
Submissions – Your Proposal
The following is a checklist of headings you might wish to consider when writing a proposal. Some or all of these might be useful depending on your proposal and the intentions for your work.
Writing and Language
Read the application carefully and give yourself time to prepare a proposal. Structure your proposal based on what is required. Write clearly, intelligently or simply in a way that communicates your ideas quickly. The opening statement and paragraph is important. Generally it is good to keep sentences and paragraphs short. You can write in a way that creatively expresses your ideas and resonates with concepts but remember who will be reading it and make sure it is comprehensible. Try not to be boring or dense. Footnotes can help greatly to give a flow to your text and also gives space for explaining complex ideas or words. Do not be afraid to use simple language. You can write in a style that uses ‘art language’ but avoid being obtuse and do not inflate your own importance. Don’t be afraid, personality can come through, so can humour and mystery but this is best in a way that is not self-conscious. Always get someone (preferably a peer) to read and look through your proposal. Remember writing is a process – ideas come through this process. Clarity emerges when you write and structure your thoughts. Always leave time for editing and fine-tuning.
Submissions – Visual Material
Visual material is a basic requirement and it is critical and likely to be the most important part of your proposal. Visual material will include samples of previous work and visualization of your proposal.
Make a selection of your best work and images. Six to ten images of work or projects is likely to be sufficient. Make sure that this includes some of your most recent work. Label images clearly and/or provide a text document giving further information – title, date, short description of context and content. Submission requirements might specify how material should be received -e.g. photographic print or on CD or slide. But usually you have the option to choose the best way to present your material. You can use software or other publishers’ programmes to combine text and visuals. Video clips should be circa 1 minute with a second copy of complete work (full duration) enclosed. A selection of printed material – catalogues, posters, booklets, programmes and reviews provide another level of back up material and again should be carefully selected and limited. References to websites can be given but don’t expect assessors to look them up.
Visualisation of your proposal
The visualisation of your proposal can win you a commission. Unless otherwise stated, it can be in any form to suit your proposal and practice and you should have scope to be both creative and clear here. Your proposal might include sketches, overlays, drawings, notes, photoshoped images, maquettes, CD, DVD etc
Consider binding or putting material into a folder to support its flow and also to hold all together. Label all material and use text to further articulate.
Submissions – Technical Information
Technical details should provide sufficient and detailed information to reassure the commissioner and selectors that you can make and present the proposed artwork and that it will last with a minimum of maintenance for the required time-scale. As relevant, it is good to address the following with a clear written explanation:
Certain objects will require a specialist report – for example an engineer’s report, advice or further statement.
Submissions –Environmental Impact Study
In the case of major landmark sculptures, an environmental impact study may be required. An environmental impact study (EIS) is the detailed study of the potential effects of a designated development on the local environment. Environmental impact studies should assess the existing site and conditions and evaluate the anticipated impacts on the flora, fauna, economy, historical and social factors of the new development. An EIS is important to avoid damage to a local area in terms of its ecology, air and water quality and to ensure long-term sustainable, minimal impact development – www.irishstatutebook.ie
Submissions – Common Mistakes in Making a Proposal
Finance – Budget Breakdown
Elsewhere in the Info~Pool Annette Clancy has prepared a complimentary text entitled ‘The Science and Art of Pricing and Costing Your Work‘. It provides practical advice to artists on how to calculate and cost the labour, time and overheads of their creative practice as well as guidance on how to price completed works and other artistic activity.
Budget breakdown for public art commissions can involve the following:
When making a proposal make sure you stay within the commissioning budget, unless you have proven funding from other sources.
Finance – Artist and Professional Fees
The issues of artists’ fees is a tricky one and so it is difficult to provide any concrete guidance. Fees are generally not separated out from the total project budget and so artists have to to estimate their own fee based on overall costs.
One recommendation puts artists fees between 20 – 25% of the total budget. However, in reality the artists fee often gets eaten up by the production costs and in some cases artists have come away with no fee or very little. This is unfair – artists should ensure that they are paid properly for undertaking the project.
Another difficulty in estimating fees is that different projects by their nature require different fee structures, for example, a project where the artist gives a lot of their time through research or process-based engagement may require more of the artists’ time and smaller production costs so a more substantial artists’ fee should be supported.
In a few instances the commissioner separates the artists’ fee from the production and other costs.
Other Professional Fees:
The payment of others – subcontracted experts required in the production and realisation of the project/work (for example engineers, architects, artists etc)
– Material, equipment and production costs
–Transport and Installation costs
In some cases installation might be covered by the commissioning body – generally this is the case if the artwork is aligned to the building programme and the contractors are on site. However, this is not always guaranteed and should be costed.
Finance – Insurance
Increasingly you will be asked to supply Public Liability Insurances and Employers Liability Insurance. It is also advisable to take out Personal Accident Insurance.
Visual Artists Ireland can recommend the insurance company O’Driscoll O’Neil to artists. It offers a range of insurance packages and covers to visual artists.
Finance – Contingency
Always include contingency in your budget. A recommendation is for 2-5%. This is to support unforeseen items and also give some flexibility in the case of inflation or costs increases. Sometimes costs are not calculated / or estimated properly which can lead to the ms-management of budgets. Budgets can be correct at time of submission, but costs and expenses can easily increase over time especially if there are unforeseen delays.
Be aware though that contingency will not necessarily be able to cover these increases and further negotiation with a commissioner may be required. In addition, contingency should be discussed and addressed in the contract.
However, experience suggests that the commissioner will rarely and most likely will never have any latitude to negotiate.
Finance – Documentation
Depending on the budget available this might include a full-scale catalogue of artists work with essays and images; printed material and publications; DVD recording of work or CD; photographic documentation and evaluation analysis.
Finance – VAT & TAX
Elsewhere in the Info~Pool, Gaby Smyth and Co. Accountants have prepared texts on ‘VAT and Artists’ and ‘Tax and Self-Employment for Artists’. Here you will find a simple guide to VAT, general rules and administration and info on Tax, PRSI and Social Insurance benefits for self-employed artists.
Artists based in Northern Ireland should refer to the texts by Flannigan Edmonds Bannon, Chartered Accountants. Here you will find A simple guide to VAT, general rules and administration and information on Tax, PRSI and social Insurance benefits for self-employed artists based in Northern Ireland.
Tax Clearance Certificate
Where a company / person provides goods or services to the public sector, there is usually documentation – a Tax Clearance Cert – required by the public or local authority. You will be asked to supply this tax clearance certificate. This is a simple document which you can get from Revenue (Ireland) or the HM Revenue & Customs (Northern Ireland) which declares that your tax affairs are in order.
Managing the Process
The client/commissioner-artist relationship is fundamental to a good process. Understanding of the other in a supportive environment makes for a good process. Getting a sense of the commissioner and the context of the commission is useful – how much flexibility is possible on both sides can be quickly assessed. If you encounter problems or obstacles don’t let them fester. It is important to bring them up as soon as they occur. The commissioner may be extremely helpful and supportive here and find other solutions and / or have access to all sorts of resources or people that can help.
Schedule regular meetings at appropriate times throughout the process and stay in touch. Recognise that the commissioner may have other work and will not be able to devote themselves full time to your project. Be self-sufficient as much as possible and within expectation – but know when and how to ask for support or request time to focus on research, making and production. Keep a check on budgets throughout. Keep a check on time frames throughout. Set out a work plan and, in more formal situations, agree a schedule of meetings.
Managing the Process – Work Plan / Time Frame
The work plan assists in setting out the various stages of a project from development to realisation.
Process or Time-Based Work
Legalities – Contracts
Elsewhere in the Info~Pool solicitor Linda Scales has prepared a complimentary text entitled ‘Contracts for Artists’. Scales explains the legalities of contracts and how they work. She also provides sample contracts for use when undertaking a commission, exhibiting with a gallery or reproducing an artwork.
A contract is a legal agreement between the artist and the commissioner. It is there to give protection to both parties and sets out the terms and conditions for the commission. The artist should be happy with all items of the contract before signing any agreement.
The contract will generally confirm/agree timeframe for the project and deadlines for realisation and budgets and payment schedules. It will specify what the artist has agreed to undertake, make / give and their responsibilities. It should also specify what the commissioner can expect to receive. It should address issues of ownership and copyright, health and safety agreements and insurances. The contract might also require the artist to provide specific information e.g. a maintenance schedule and address responsibilities in the case of repair, damage and neglect.
Legalities – Copyright
Elsewhere in the Info~Pool solicitor Linda Scales has prepared a complimentary text entitled ‘Copyright and the Visual Artist’. It presents an overview of copyright and how it works and advises artists on how to protect their copyright and what steps to take if copyright is infringed.
Below is a summary of key elements of Linda Scale’s text on ‘Copyright and the Visual Artist’.
Copyright gives protection and rights for reproduction. Copyright ownership legally prevents any third party from:
All forms and media are eligible for copyright as long as they are deemed original. Appropriation, sampling, and sourcing from existing work broadens our views and interpretation of originality and while there is no fixed definition of original it usually means a fair degree of labour, judgement and skill and not copied from another source. Ideas and principles underlying a piece of work are not protected, for example, Christo does not have copyright on wrapping.
Copyright arises spontaneously on the creation of a work there is no registration required.
Things you can do to protect your copyright:
Commissions and Ownership
Misunderstandings as to ownership can arise when a work is commissioned. Commissioners often assume because they paid for the work they own the copyright. This is not the case. The copyright remains with the artist unless it is assigned to the commissioner in a written agreement. The commissioner has the right to use the work for which it is commissioned.
For further information contact Irish Visual Artists Rights Organisation (IVARO).
Copyright in Contracts:
Contracts for commissions should consider ownership of the work. The commissioner who pays for the work usually has ownership of the work with the copyright remaining with the artist.
In the case of multiple copies such as a photographic series and recordings an agreement should confirm what the commissioner can assume ownership of – e.g. one set of photographic prints. The contract should make clear that work incidental to the commission e.g. notes, writings, sketches and drawing and other works relating to the process remains with the artist unless otherwise agreed with the commissioner as part of the contract.
Post Project – Maintenance
Maintenance of the work should be thought out in advance. Some artists provide a maintenance manual. This might be as simple as ‘clean only with a feather duster’ or info re the specific paint colour and type or cleaning method for removing graffiti.
The commissioner now owns the work (but not the copyright) and has responsibility for maintenance and repairs. Commissioners are advised to create a separate budget for maintenance, repairs and upkeep. Commissioners should contact the artist before making any major repairs or carrying out conservation work. If the artist is deceased, specialist advice can be sought to ensure the use of correct materials etc.
Post Project – Decommissioning
Decommissioning has increasingly become an issue for commissioners. Decommissioning is a formal process for the removal of an artwork / project from the public domain.
The decommissioning process should be handled with sensitivity and respect for the artist and the work.The artist should always be contacted prior to removal of work. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has issued decommissioning guidelines – here a work of art cannot be decommissioned on the basis of subjectivity or taste. A work can only be decommissioned if it is beyond repair or maintenance, or repair works are prohibitive or if the work is a Health and Safety hazard.
Decommissioning should be addressed in the artist / commissioner contract.
Post Project – Documentation
Documentation is extremely valuable to an artist and is the currency with which you will be able to promote your practice further. It is an important record of the work and process, and it is often required by the commissioner. Documentation can include photographs, analysis and evaluation text of the process and finished work. It might be published in a catalogue with critical or reflective essays or commentary. It might also work well as a video work and downloadable from a website.
Post Project – Evaluation
Commissioners often seek evaluation. Sometimes evaluation forms an integral part of the process and is set up at the beginning with an expert evaluator on board who is funded out of separate money. This is the best approach.
Other times evaluation might include a written report of the process and work, written by artist or project curator; copies of reviews and press releases; comment books and statements; peer feedback; critical texts; images of the work and the work in process can all be used in an evaluation report.
Often, artists and commissioners have a good sense of what worked and what didn’t. Evaluation is helpful to both artist and commissioners as it provides time to reflect on the project and process and learn for future situations.
Post Project – What Can Go Wrong?
Elsewhere in the Info~Pool solicitor Linda Scales has prepared a complimentary text entitled ‘Handling Disputes’ which provides advice to artists on how to avoid professional disputes and manage those that do occur.
Often it is the small, unforeseen things that can trip us up, or things outside of your control. Sometimes when things seem to go wrong, you are steered to deal with them in other new ways which can ultimately become a positive experience. It is good advice is to stay with things and persevere until there is no solution. Common problems include:
Things to Know
You are not on your own. Peers, artists and resource agencies have a lot of combined knowledge. Your problem is likely to have occurred elsewhere so don’t be afraid to ask and consult with others.
Don’t be afraid to push agendas. Know when to stand firm and when to give in and comprise. Have a sense of humour. Recognise that everything; even a bad situation is experienced gained.
By Cliodhna Shaffrey and Ruairí Ó Cuív
1. Make use of the college facilities before you graduate!
It’s very easy to take college facilities for granted but you’ll have to pay for them when you graduate. So use the equipment to finish off works in progress. Use the photocopier to make copies of your CV. Avail of internet, computer and printer access to prepare submissions, proposals and job applications. It’s also easy to take tutors and their valuable feedback for granted! So make the most of them too.
2. Document your work
Maintaining an organised, running history of your work for promotion, grants, reference, and exhibition purposes, is an important part of professional practice. Make sure to document your work carefully, especially your degree show and in particular if it’s an installation, ephemeral, or transient work. Consider having the work professionally photographed – these photographs can be used for promoting your work and accessing future opportunities. You can find information on the best ways to document your work in the in the relevant section of this manual.
3. Prepare an Events Calendar
Set yourself goals for the coming academic year. Plan the year out with targets and submission dates in mind. You can find out about submission deadlines for public art commissions, gallery calls, residencies and funding opportunities by signing up for the twice weekly VAI e-bulletin (www.visualartists.ie). You can also use the VAI website to keep a track of upcoming deadlines). This will help you allocate your time while identifying opportunities to which you can submit your work.
Networking is one of the most effective ways to open up career opportunities in a competitive industry. Whether you’re connecting at an art fair or getting to know your co-workers at an internship, you never know when that person might be able to help you. Get yourself on mailing lists for gallery openings and previews. You have to get out there and meet new people to get your work known. Networking might seem hard at first, but once you get the hang of it (and start recognising familiar faces at events) it becomes more natural.
5. Build a critical profile
Establish a list of contacts from college for collaborations, critique and support. Consider setting up a peer review group with other graduates to give critical feedback on each others work. VAI runs regular peer critique sessions that you should join. The evaluation will help you understand how others view your work. Your peers bring a fresh perspective to bear and will often be able to point out whether something is clear or not. The input can be highly motivating.
6. Learn the art of writing Press Releases and the Artist Statement
The ability to write good press releases and artist statements is a key element in getting ahead. The written word is one of the most important elements that employers, galleries, museums, and graduate schools look for in an artist. The information you provide in a press release should be factual, clear and have some sort of edge that will attract critics / press to the show. Always avoid using superlatives in press releases. Write something interesting and engaging for the body of the release. The first two sentences are the most important you have to hook the viewers to make them want to know more.
An artist’s statement is a living document that changes as your work progresses. Your statement could be updated at about the same rate that you might update a CV. A good statement will give you the ability to discuss and have confidence in your work.
7. Get your work reviewed
A conundrum for emerging artists is that you need a show to get reviews, but you need reviews to get a show. So initiate and curate your own show with your classmates and use this opportunity to get your work reviewed. There is no quick way of attracting curators, critics or other art professionals to shows. There are only really a small handful of writers and critics and there are hundreds of shows around the country each month. Develop a good contact list by researching all the major art publications, writers, press officers, galleries etc. Each contact should be sent a press release and a personal invite to the show. Tell them a bit about the show and invite them to meet you there for a glass of wine and a chat. Don’t forget to advertise your show with Visual Artists Ireland’s free eBulletin service. This is the primary way to let the wider art world know that your show is happening.
Reviews are beneficial not only because they bring your work to a wide audience but also because they are evidence that you are engaged with and part of the professional art discussion and dialogue. Reviews are recognition and acknowledgement by your peers. They can also come in very handy as supporting documents when making funding applications! Getting a review in the local press is a good way to start.
8. Price your work
In many professions unions tend to advise members on rates of pay, however most artists must take on this responsibility for themselves. There are many variables involved in establishing the price for your work, be it a painting, carrying out a public art commission, licensing a reproduction or giving a workshop. You will need to take into account your time, your profile, materials, overheads, provision for social insurance and income tax etc. Many artists start out on their career taking whatever jobs they can, and often for inadequate pay. Most people feel uncomfortable discussing money but a successful negotiation does not only affect the fees you will be getting – it will impact your self esteem and influence others perception and value of you.
9. Get Help!
You’re not alone. Through Visual Artists Ireland you will find various local groups and networking events that will bring you into contact with your fellow artists. The best way to find out about the education or training provided by arts service organisations is to place your name on any ebulletin or similar notification lists available to you and/or to check their websites. VAI provides professional development courses (at a reduced rate for members) that are invaluable for helping you in your career development. See also the Arts Directory on the VAI website for a list of Public Galleries, Commercial Galleries, Artist-Led Organisations, Art Studios, Colleges and Resource Organisations nationwide.
10. Join Visual Artists Ireland
Access the help desk along with numerous other benefits such as discounts on material suppliers and service providers, 6 copies of the Visual Artists’ News Sheet posted to your door annually, a reduction on fees charged for workshops and events, access to equipment hire and have your profile listed in the Members Directory on the VAI website, complete with gallery and links to your personal sites.
By joining you will also be strengthening our voice to lobby on your behalf.
Material from a seminar event run by Visual Artists Ireland in partnership with The Bar Council on Thur 17 May 2012 @ The Bar Council.
Legal Supports for Contemporary Visual Artists – Keynote speaker Henry Lydiate from The Henry Lydiate Partnership discusses the development of his ArtLaw practice and the types of legal supports that contemporary visual art practitioners need.
Public art of any kind takes place in a sphere where many diverse interests meet. Negotiation therefore is a constant demand. As part of the MA Art in Public in Belfast, this session looked at a real public artwork, introducing its process and arising conflict. Using this artwork, two-conflict analysis mapping strategies were introduced. two exercises were done in order to become aware of situations that would then lead to a negotiation process.
This event was facilitated by Susanne Bosch as part of Visual Artists Ireland’s Get Together 2012
Get Together 2012 was a day of engaged sharing, networking and information provision held in Limerick College of Art and Design on Friday, 15 June 2012
An Introduction to Health & Safety Issues
Most artists are aware that some of the materials that they use and processes that they undertake can carry health and safety risks. What many artists may not be aware of is that they, as self-employed individuals, have a duty under health and safety law to ensure that their working environment complies with health and safety legislation.
For most artists their workplace is the studio; be it a purpose built facility, rented space or an extension to their home. The nature of artistic practice is such that artists use a very eclectic mix of materials in their day-to day work. They also undertake a wide range of physical activities and processes in producing work. Both materials used and production activities can be detrimental to an artist’s health and safety, quality of life and career.
Apart from it being the law, it is in the interest of artists to protect their own health and safety as well as ensuring that studios and work environments are safe for visitors, family or clients. This text aims to provide a brief introduction to the law and requirements to have a safe and healthy workplace. It will cover the importance of the ‘Safety Statement’ and in particular ‘Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment’.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has a large number of publications and guides, which provide information and advice on the various hazards associated with different occupations. However, there are no guidelines which cover artists studio-work specifically, so it is up to you to assess your studio, work methods and materials; identify the risks associated in each case and implement measures to reduce or eliminate them.
If you are self-employed – as most artists are – you are legally bound to provide a safe working environment as set out in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. You will find this as well as other health and safety legislative documents on the HSA website. Failure to provide a safe working environment can result in civil cases taken by visitors or employees (if you employ others to work with you in your studio) or criminal cases taken by the HSA.
The Act is the primary piece of health and safety legislation. This sets out your basic health and safety responsibilities. There are a number of secondary pieces of legislation which essentially expand on these basic responsibilities. For instance, The Act (Primary) requires you to provide a safe place of work while the General Applications (Secondary) expands on what a safe place of work is.
The Safety Statement
The legislation demands that you as a self-employed individual manage health and safety in your work place. A ‘Safety Statement’ outlines how you will do this. The Statement should include a commitment to comply with all relevant Health and Safety Legislation and should identify the hazards and assess the risks of all activities undertaken in your workplace. It should also detail the protective and preventive measures taken to secure the safety, health and welfare of the people who work at or visit your workplace. The safety statement should be clearly displayed in your studio and brought to the attention of staff (if any) at least once a year, and whenever it is revised.
A risk assessment identifies the hazards in your workplace and evaluates the risks posed by these hazards. In order to fully comprehend the language of the legislation and to be able to draw up a risk assessment, it is helpful to understand the common terms used throughout – hazard, harm and risk.
Carrying Out a Risk Assessment
The Health and Safety Authority provides a systematic guide to carrying out a risk assessment.
* Analyse your studio or workplace. This may involve listing all the activities carried out in your studio, drawing up a diagram of your space and mapping the location of equipment such as computers, sinks, radiators, shelving, kilns etc
* Identify the hazards associated with your work activities. For example, electrical hazards associated with untrunked cables which may cause tripping or falling, chemical hazards associated with toxic materials, hazards that are associated with stone work – dust inhalation for example. Textile dyes are particularly hazardous to skin and photochemicals used by photographers are associated with skin and respiratory diseases. Some hazards may not seem so obvious such as unsecured shelving, the glare from PC monitors, for example, but even the chair that you sit on, if incorrectly adjusted, can cause back injury.
* Rate the risk level associated with each hazard. To do this you need to evaluate the likelihood that injury might occur and the extent or severity of the injury. This assessment of risk is a question of judgement – you yourself must form an opinion. If you are unsure of the risk associated with a particular piece of equipment or chemical; it is up to you to find out by contacting the manufacturer or reading the label or safety manual.
* Evaluate the ‘controls’ that you may already have in place to make hazards less hazardous. Controls are essentially precautions that you put in place to eliminate or reduce the risks. A control may take the form of signage near a leaking sink that warns of a slippery surface, warning labels on chemicals, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as goggles and dust masks for working with stone or when printmaking for example.
Hierarchy of Controls
Once you have carried out a Risk Assessment of your studio or workplace you must then decide what efforts you will take to ensure that the risks you have identified are reduced or eliminated. The Health and Safety Legislation sets out a five-step hierarchy of controls on how to deal with or control risks. It is called a hierarchy because the most effective control is placed at the top. You should implement these controls in priority order starting at the top and working down the list.
1. Eliminate: If you can eliminate the hazard altogether you should do so. So for example, avoid using a particular type of toxic chemical altogether or avoid carrying heavy loads yourself.
2. Substitute: Can you substitute the materials or equipment for ones that are less hazardous? For example, can you use an alternative brand of paint – one that is less toxic or can you substitute that faulty heater for one that works a bit better.
3. Engineering: Can you install Fire Extinguishers in your workplace? Ensure that the electrical installation in your studio is certified and maintained by a competent person.
4. Administrative: Clearly display signage warning of hazards associated with materials such as chemicals and toxic paints or signage warning visitors of poor floor conditions or obstructions.
5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): PPE is any safety clothing or equipment worn to protect against hazards. You should use goggles to protect against dust or debris for example.
Summary of Responsibilities
To summarise, you must display a Safety Statement in your workplace or studio. The Safety Statement must be accompanied by a Risk Assessment. This must include risks for all people including visitors. For every hazard identified, controls or preventions must be put in place to ensure the risk of harm is eliminated or reduced. Finally, your Statement and Risk Assessment must be revised annually to ensure any new hazards are identified and controls implemented.
Now we will look at some of the most common workplace hazards. The main categories of hazards to be mindful of are: biological, chemical, physical, human behaviour, and fire and explosion.
Chemical agents are considered hazardous not only because of what they contain but also because of the way in which they are used in the studio. Some hazardous chemical agents include:
* Substances brought into the workplace and handled, stored and used in your work processes. These may include solvents, cleaning agents, paints, glues, and resin.
* Substances generated by your work activity – fumes from welding, soldering, dust, solvent vapours from painting etc
* Substances or mixtures produced by your work process – residues and waste for example.
The effects of exposure to chemical hazards can range from eye irritation to poisoning to chronic lung disease. Information on chemical agents can usually be found on packaging labels, information provided by the supplier and of course the Internet. The HSA data sheets will advise on how to prevent or eliminate risks associated with chemicals.
Biological hazards are usually invisible so the risks they pose are not always appreciated. They include bacteria, viruses, fungi (yeasts and moulds) and parasites. The essential difference between biological agents and other hazardous substances is their ability to reproduce. Exposure to biological agents can occur whenever people are in contact with the materials such as natural or organic materials like soil, clay, and plant materials (hay, straw, cotton etc); substances of animal origin (wool, hair, etc); food; organic dust (eg. flour, paper, dust) and waste or wastewater.
Some of the occupations at risk from biological hazards that artists may cross over into include working in areas with air conditioning systems and high humidity (eg. textile industry, print industry and paper production). This can cause allergies and respiratory disorders due to moulds and yeasts. Also, working in archives, museums and libraries can cause allergies and respiratory disorders.
Activities involving manual handling and trips and falls are probably the most common cause of workplace accidents. The common risks are associated with manual handling involve the load being too heavy, bad posture when lifting and environment factors such as uneven floors.
Visual Display Units
Though working at a computer may not seem particularly hazardous to your health there are health and safely issues associated with the use of computers and the workstation (desk, chair, lighting,) at which a person works. Anyone that works at a computer workstation for one continuous hour or more, as part of their everyday work should be aware of the hazards associated – eye strain, back injury, repetitive strain.
Probably the hazard that most people are aware of and that which is a hazard in every workplace. Common causes of fire include electrical faults, cooking, smoking and flammable liquids. Obviously, the best control to prevent fire is to isolate the three factors that cause fire – heat, fuel and oxygen. Thus, your studio should be kept neat and tidy to limit potential fuel sources. Ensure sockets are not overloaded and that electrical equipment is in good condition. A smoke detector and fire extinguisher should be installed in your studio.
By Niamh Looney
Niamh Looney is Information and Research Officer with Visual Artists Ireland. In 2006, she successfully completed Managing Safely, a course validated by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health