Caroline Banks, artist, and Susan J Mumford, BSAA Founder, at The Other Art Fair (London)

Cut out the agent for commissioned art? Think again

Blog
October 7, 2021
by Susan J Mumford

This real-life story from the words of our founder Susan displays the value that an agent can bring to an artist when being commissioned for art. Our take: play to your strengths and value what others bring to the table! 

I once lined up an art commission that was a near catastrophe. The story highlights how having someone in between a commissioner and artist can make all the difference.

Thanks to some early-morning networking I was doing at the time, my expertise as an art consultant was recommended to the manager of a major London hotel. He was seeking a work of art for the lobby and I was one of several consultants who pitched for the job. 

One of the two artists I put forward was selected. What could possibly go wrong?

Alex McIntyre, artist, with gallerist Sue Atherton-Green, on the stand, at The Other Art Fair (London)

The initial sketch was completed and approved, and the hotel paid the 50% deposit. This was non-refundable, unless the job was not completed.

Several weeks passed, and I spoke with the enthusiastic maker. He spoke about how he had been developing the idea and was busily working away in the studio. 

This was excellent news. 

I asked to see progress photographs and he was happy to oblige. Next is the catch… 

He had certainly been developing new ideas, so new in fact, that they were now entirely different from what was proposed in the initial sketch and not at all what the hotel was seeking. After speaking on the phone again, it was clear that an in-person studio visit was needed.

I arrived at the studio mid-morning, greeted by a cheerful artist. He was delighted with the work of art and was eager to show me. And that’s when I broke the news. He would need to restart his work, based on the original sketch. He did so, and the piece sought by the hotel started to materialise. After a couple more weeks, I sent progress images to the hotel manager, who was delighted with what he saw. A few more weeks on, and the completed piece was approved and the remaining 50% was paid.

Though the delivery was several weeks late as a result of the diversion, the painting we installed was even better than what the hotel had envisioned. The artist was delighted to have such a happy client, and furthermore, the addition of such a commission was great for the artist’s CV.

Creativity is a wonderful attribute, and sometimes it unknowingly leads one on a new journey without a maker taking notice that the road has diverged. 

Even the most experienced of artists can experience this, so placing an objective individual to communicate between artist and commissioner can be absolutely paramount for success and enjoyment in your work. 

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