Demystifying Art Commissions

The monumental sculpture by Michelangelo in the Medici chapel at the Church of San Lorenzo

The monumental sculpture by Michelangelo in the Medici chapel at the Church of San Lorenzo

This New Year began in Florence, a city where the imprint of the influential Medici family’s status and patronage is ever present. The commissioning of sculpture and painting in the Renaissance by this wealthy and influential family is almost overwhelming. The Uffizi Gallery, once the banking offices of the Medici family, remains one of the largest and most impressive art collections in the world today.

Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, the first patron of the arts in the family, commissioned Brunelleschi to reconstruction of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, in 1419. Michelangelo was then commissioned to create the grand sculptured which surround the Medici family tomb within the chapel.

Who can forget the evocative image of the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli or the Primavera. Both paintings were commissioned by the Medici family in the 1400s and remain today two of the most famous paintings in art history.

The commission of art was at that time, and for many years to come, an elitist symbol of power, status and society. It was interesting to return to Sweden and the Art Agency, enriched by the Grand Duke of Tuscany’s passion for art patronage, and compare and reflect on how commissioning of artwork today has changed and to possibly demystify the preconception.

Botticelli’s  Birth of Venus  painted between 1477 and 1478 for Giovanni and Lorenzo de’ Medici

Botticelli’s Birth of Venus painted between 1477 and 1478 for Giovanni and Lorenzo de’ Medici

In 2018 the Agency was fortunate to have the opportunity to work on several commissions with clients in Sweden, Denmark and further a field. For me, the concept of a bespoke piece of art being created for an individual as a gift, personal art investment or a specific space is an exciting and challenging journey.

Commission work  Sunday Afternoon  - Marta Lafuente

Commission work Sunday Afternoon - Marta Lafuente

One of the most rewarding commissions was painted by the Catalan figurative artist Marta Lafuente. A Swedish couple fell in love with the mixed media work of Marta early in 2018. They had been captivated by her unique style and composition whilst visiting an exhibition of her work at the Nordic Art Agency Pop Up in March. Fast forward to June and discussions had began to commission a surprise painting by Marta Lafuente as a gift for a special event from the wife to her husband. A budget was set, which was no more costly than an original work by Lafuente, and a painting concept was agreed.

The project took around three months and images were exchanged over email throughout the process so that the client was kept well informed. The final painting was delivered and the client was thrilled with the end result and so was her very surprised husband! The commission work represented something much more than a work of art, it was a journey and a creative process culminating in a very personal experience. Personally I adored the final painting and the clients reaction to the work. The commission was a fabulous experience.

Commissioning artwork though can be intimidating and overwhelming for some and over the years the same reactions and fears have been expressed by our clients. Here are some of the myths we have uncovered when presenting the idea of a creating bespoke piece of artwork,

The misconception of art commissions are based mainly on cost - that having a work specifically made directly by the artists will incur much more than the budget they have in mind.
— Cost Concern
Clients feel insecure and they are concerned that the end result might not be as expected. There is a risk involved that they will be disappointed.
— Buyers Anxiety
A commission feels indulgent and unnecessary. There is lots of great art out there, it’s just a matter of locating the right artist and artwork.
— Buyers Guilt
Beetle Sofa Designer: GamFratesi  27,000 Sek

Beetle Sofa Designer: GamFratesi

27,000 Sek

The reality is that commissioned artworks shouldn’t necessarily cost any more than an existing artwork by the same artist. Once the budget is confirmed a client can feel far more secure and less intimidated about the process. Asking the initial question of price and deciding a budget is often the biggest hurdle for the client.

Buyers anxiety regarding the potential risks and possible disappointment when commissioning an artwork is understandable. It is far less scary to treat yourself to a branded luxury item than engaging in a unique work of art. This stunning Gubi Beetle 2-seater sofa is approximately equivalent to the average price of a commissioned artwork by one of our artists. Yet, some how the decision to purchase an expensive sofa or lamp is more comfortable than to invest in artwork which is custom made and unique.

Ultimately, the right art advisor is needs to be found to communicate and manage the process efficiently and successfully. The buyers lack of ease with commissioning work could also be related to the historical ideal of the status connected to bespoke production. The question being, “am I deserving of this?”

Nordic Art Agency artist Chelsea Davine recently had an interesting new commission with a fabulous outcome from a client based in Hong Kong. The client had seen some of Chelsea’s artwork and was inspired to approach her about a commission. As Chelsea explains,

Working on commissions is an integral part of my creative process. I was recently contacted by a gentleman in Hong Kong who was in the process of designing his new home and had a couple of paintings in mind for specific spaces in the house. We discussed the floor plans, light and position in the room. They were to compliment existing artwork and bring a sense of Zen to the home.

This commissioned painting, now installed in a new Hong Kong home, was based on  Looking West in Winter  by Chelsea Davine

This commissioned painting, now installed in a new Hong Kong home, was based on Looking West in Winter by Chelsea Davine

Two paintings were eventually commissioned one which was a landscape piece on raw canvas, which hangs over the dinning table, and a second copper painting inspired by the sea. Both works were finally shipped to Hong Kong and the client wrote this very kind message of appreciation to the artist,

''Thanks for your paintings. Your painting is put at the side of another Japanese ancient painting, what a harmony and beautiful atmosphere. I embed your painting of Mediterranean Sea in the wood wall, to frame the pic with shadow.  It's excellent. It uplifts and embraces the whole interior space’’  

No doubt the artworks and the experience of the commission will hold value for the owner for many years to come.

Commissions shouldn’t be an intimidating way to begin an art collection or add to an existing art collection. They also shouldn’t only be reserved for special events or occasions. If you are interested in an artist and their work is within your budget the journey and process of commissioning work is well worth it. Being a modern day patron of an artists is now so seamless in the digital age and many art galleries offer complementary art advisory services to support you and your commission experience.

Possibly 2019 is the year that you will commission your first piece of original artwork.

So what’s your budget?

Juliet Rees - Nilsson

Founder & Art Advisor