Selecting artists competitively

Open Competition

This is when an opportunity is advertised through a magazine, website or other medium to invite expressions of interest. Normally, artists would be invited to apply for more information, often in the form of a short brief setting out the opportunity including details of the site, budget and selection criteria. They can be asked to submit a short statement of interest, CV and images with short descriptions, by a defined closing date. Asking them for proposals at this stage is not appropriate.

Advantages and disadvantages:

  • Can generate a profile and interest in the opportunity.
  • Tends to attract younger or unknown artists.
  • Is consistent with good equal opportunities practices.
  • Due to the amount of interest it can generate and the necessity of advertising as widely as possible it can be a time-consuming, expensive and heavily administrative process.
  • Does not always attract a suitable artist, as the process can be too broad.


Invited competition

A shortlist of artists is selected often by a steering group, informed by an arts expert, from a longer list with reference to the brief. The short list of artists are then invited to make a site visit, and respond to the brief by submitting proposals. Selected artists are asked to submit detailed proposals, including maquettes/models and a budget, for an agreed fee, by a set date. The fee level is dependent on the seniority and experience of the artists, profile of the commission and is normally between £1,000 - £3,000 but could be more dependent on the scope of the opportunity.

The final decision is made on the strength of artists’ proposals. The artists retain their original maquettes/drawings and all of the artists receive their fee and expenses, irrespective of whether they are awarded the commission. It is good practice and expected for copyright of the proposals to rest with the artist.

Advantages and disadvantages:

  • The process allows for a range of different ideas that can be explored without entering into a full commitment.
  • Gives more stability over the process, particularly if time is a factor.
  • Less established artists can compete with more experienced ones.
  • Some artists are unwilling to be put into a competitive situation.


Direct invitation

After reviewing a long list of potential artists’ work – normally with a steering group – an artist is directly approached. The artist is then invited to develop initial proposals before reviewing the opportunity with the steering group and being finally appointed to realise the commission.

Advantages and disadvantages:

  • Established international artists prefer to operate in this way.
  • There are none of the additional costs involved in open competition or shortlist fees.
  • It can be undertaken quickly but there is less surety.
  • It can be difficult to justify this approach in terms of equality (and maybe against competitive tendering rules for local authorities).


Competitive Interview

This is similar to an invited competition. However, rather than the invited shortlist of artists being asked to submit a proposal, they are invited to an interview and to show examples of their process and work. The shortlist of artists are still invited to make a site visit, and shown the brief. At the interview the artists are asked about their previous work and asked for an initial response to the brief. Each artist is paid for their time to attend the site visit and interview whether or not they are awarded the commission.

Advantages and disadvantages:

  • The process often suits opportunities working with others such as on building projects.
  • The commitment for artists is less demanding.
  • It can work well if time is an issue.
  • Less established artists can compete with more experienced ones, including those artists who may not have worked in the public realm.
  • As artists discuss initial ideas, their practicalities have not been worked through.
  • Some artists are unwilling to be put into a competitive situation.