Time, life and legacy of a commission

No work is forever. The legacy of a work may only become apparent after the work is completed. Issues of time relate to the commissioning process and to the emerging works. Some works hold the test of time; permanent, durational and ephemeral or temporary works are all terms that are relative. In some ways music and drama works last longer than sculptures in the public domain that may be subject to weather conditions and other issues regarding maintenance and locational changes. De-commissioning and de-acquisitioning are a part of the commissioning process. Whilst citizens may commission work, at some stage this work may be situated in the public domain, in a Local Authority context, and responsibilities may shift regarding upkeep, ownership and renewal. What values apply today may change from tomorrow, and allowance for the continuance or discontinuance of works in any media is an integral part of any commissioning process.  

The practicalities of the commissioning process also takes time, often running over a fiscal year, sometimes up to ten years. Reasons for this can be external to the commission in hand. Where artists are engaging with people, it takes time to build trust, to work out what route to follow, to allow ideas to emerge, for discussion and reflection. Likewise where artists are experimenting with new materials and technologies which may/may not be readily available, the commissioning process is subservient to practice. It is common that initial ideas change substantially, and this also requires time and provision for adjustment. Where commissions are an integral part of a construction process, then time is a critical factor for the artist/s. Where in some situations provision for the arts is embedded at the outset, in other situations, it is necessary to separate the commission budget from its original source so that the art practice dictates the timing.


  • Devise effective schedule for commission and realisation of the work   
  • Plan for the life of the work, building contingency for future ownership, display, conservation, adaptation, renewal, revision, re-enactment   
  • Negotiate rights and royalties appropriate to the particular commission   
  • Archive all relevant documents relating to the process for future public access





Commission Call Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

16 August 2017

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum, invite proposals for a commission focusing on the creation of new work through...More..

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Greystones Educate Together National School appointed a voluntary committee with relevant expertise to oversee the per cent for art commissioning process. An external curator, Máire Davey, was appointed specifically for her expertise in working in a highly collaborative way as meaningful involvement from the students and school was viewed as central to the process. The procurement route chosen was limited invited competition.

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