• Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email
Art Fund sponsorship banner

From public sculptures to powerful performances, new commissions have a unique ability to connect with audiences – which is why Art Fund is keen to support them, explains Robert Dingle.  

Hibiscus Rising sculpture against a blue sky
The unveiling of Hibiscus Rising by Yinka Shonibare in Leeds in honour of David Oluwale

David Oates/Art Fund 2023

I was delighted last week to see the unveiling of a new permanent public artwork in Leeds – Yinka Shonibare’s Hibiscus Rising – a colourful sculpture inspired by the hibiscus flower, commissioned to honour the memory of Leeds resident David Oluwale.

Hibiscus Rising is a great example of how commissioning new work can strengthen ties between arts organisations and their communities and offer new ways of working together. The project was a collaboration between three organisations: the David Oluwale Memorial Association, LEEDS 2023 (responsible for the city’s Year of Culture) and Leeds City Council, with the support of Art Fund, Arts Council England and the Henry Moore Foundation. 

As well as our grant of £200,000 towards the commission, Art Fund offered further support via our crowdfunding platform, Art Happens, on which the Association ran a successful campaign to raise the money needed to create an accessible space surrounding the sculpture.  

The result of this unique process: a new work by one of the UK’s leading artists, with resonance for the local community, sited in a new public space, for the benefit of all. 

Wide ranging commissions

Commissioned work has a particular ability to speak to the now; to help museums bring their collections and spaces to life; and to bring artists, commissioning partners and audiences together in ways that would not otherwise be possible. We support a wide range of work in different forms, drawing on diverse traditions, to ensure the national collection reflects the diversity of the UK and new developments in artistic practice. 

We aim to increase our support for commissions to 2025, so we are keen to hear proposals from organisations looking to commission exciting new work. 

From the earliest projects we supported, such as Rachel Whiteread’s Tree of Life, commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery for the building’s façade, to the most recent, there has been a variety of ways these projects have come about and forms they have taken. The following gives a sense of the range of our commission grants: 

-    Film and moving image works, such as The Directors, a collaboration between Marcus Coates and five people with lived experience of psychosis, commissioned by Artangel; and Show Me The World Mister, an exhibition comprising two films by Ayo Akingbade, commissioned by five organisations working in partnership.

-    Public realm works, such as Veronica Ryan and Thomas J Price’s sculptures for the Hackney Windrush Art Commissions, co-commissioned by Hackney Council and Create London.

-    Performances, such as Melanie Manchot’s Dance (All Night, London), a collective dance performance commissioned by Art Night for the Arts Council Collection, and Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Sky in a Room, co-commissioned by Artes Mundi and National Museum Wales. 

-    Site-specific works that enhance museums’ spaces and collections, such as Anya Gallaccio’s stainless steel tree outside the Whitworth art gallery in Manchester, and Peter Randall-Page’s enamel design for the Royal West of England Academy’s exterior lift shaft. 

Yinka Shonibare's Hibiscus Rising. Photo: David Oates/Art Fund

And there's much more

Works can be of any scale as our grants range from a few thousand pounds to a few hundred thousand. You might want to apply for a commission grant as a single institution, working in partnership or as a collective of organisations. 

We recognise that the eventual acquisition of a commissioned work can vary. For example, a public artwork might be accessioned into a public collection, while the long-term legacy of a performance might look more like a collection of archival material. 

Our main requirement is that the commission should be of international, national or regional significance and have a clear benefit to the artist, the commissioning organisation(s) and the public.  

If you have a project you think an Art Fund commission grant might help with, take a look at our website to find out more about the kinds of projects we consider. 

Robert Dingle is Senior Programmes Manager at Art Fund.
@artfund | @robertdingle

This article, sponsored and contributed by Art Fund, is part of a series sharing information and expertise to support museums and galleries to recover from the pandemic and develop audiences for the future.

Link to Author(s):