Thanks to the success of Peter Jackson’s film They Shall Not Grow Old, co-commissioned by IWM and 14-18 NOW, IWM will fund and support a new programme of artist commissions that continues the vision and reach of 14-18 NOW, the UK arts programme for the First World War centenary.

The IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund will reinvest into the arts and heritage sector, forging new opportunities for artist engagement in public space and kick-starting cultural dialogue as we recover from the wide-reaching impacts of COVID-19. Creating new local, national and international partnerships, and working across multiple cultural disciplines, the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund will enable a range of commissions which reflect the scale and ambition of artistic practice that the 14-18 NOW commissions achieved, bringing art to audiences in new and relevant ways, and connecting people, places and experiences. The programme of art commissions will take place from 2021.The programme will include 15 partnership commission opportunities with a value of around £20,000 each, available for War and Conflict Subject Specialist Network (WCSSN) members.

Our vision for the Network commissions is:

  • Build on the successes and scope of the 14-18 NOW centenary programme.
  • Create and support high quality art experiences for audiences and new opportunities for artists.
  • Build our skills and confidence, supporting new ways of working, and raising profile and ambition.
  • Forge new and long-lasting partnerships and networks, fostering closer relationships between cultural organisations, artists and audiences.
  • Support contemporary artistic innovation across a broad diversity of artforms.
  • Reach out, bringing more people together to consider, remember and reflect through contemporary artistic experiences.
  • Broaden public understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and conflict from the First World War to present day through the sharing of new stories, and engagement with underrepresented voices.

Commissioning art is the process by which an artist creates new work on invitation, usually according to a clearly defined brief, budget, specific site location and/or set of needs. They can involve one or more commissioning bodies and are collaborative and iterative in nature. If you have never commissioned an artist before, IWM can help you with this process.

Collaborative commissioning between artists and museums, historic sites or cultural organisations forges closer working relationships and new opportunities for audience participation. Working in partnership in this way positions arts and heritage sites as a place to see contemporary art.

Artists have a unique and special way of drawing inspiration from, interpreting and responding to stories, objects and ideas. In turn, commissioned artworks can help us reveal and make sense of connections between people, histories and places. Commissions are a way to demonstrate in public space what contemporary art is capable of doing: telling us about ourselves. 

Art commissions can also be important in developing or starting conversations about historical collections or shared heritage. Commission opportunities have been used to draw attention to local or national agenda, tackle stories that have been underrepresented and offer new perspectives. 

Commissions can open up and bring to life public and cultural spaces, and they can be a catalyst for transformation. The injection of artist voices into locations can ensure their relevance and attractiveness for audiences and visitors. Art commissions might be supported by an associated programme that further places audience development and engagement at the heart of those spaces.

Art commissions are not limited by material or medium. They can be but aren’t always big, experimental or eye-catching. They are diverse and vary in scope: they might, for example, be based in performance or digital, sculpture or installation.

We are open to and anticipate including a rich diversity of artistic practice across the programme. This could include, but is no limited to, working with artists who are based in:

  • Painting, sculpture, architectural intervention
  • Installation, immersive, sound
  • Photography, film, digital and new media
  • Theatre, dance, music, performance
  • Co-production with audiences

 We would expect that the final commission is launched at a physical site and is made physically accessible to your audiences but we are flexible about presentation (for example digital installation, non-traditional sites).

No, not at all. We welcome proposals that look at themes ranging from the First World War through to the present day, exploring any aspect of the heritage of conflict.

We want more fantastic ideas! For the second phase of the programme, we will be looking for opportunities that complement the first phase. To find out more about the commissions from the first phase of the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, keep an eye on our website. We would particularly welcome expressions of interest from museums or galleries, who were underrepresented in the first phase of the programme, but we will still consider every proposal equitably. 

Exploration of the heritage of conflict can consider any aspect of war and conflict from the First World War to the present day. As well as any direct story about the cause, course and consequences of specific conflicts, this might include:

  • Revisiting or reinterpreting relevant collections.
  • Unlocking new or personal stories of conflict experiences.
  • Looking at the diverse impacts of war and conflict on the built environment, our communities, places, landscapes, society or politics.

We are anticipating a wide interpretation of the heritage of conflict as part of this commission programme and encourage you to think creatively about the central subject.

We are more than happy for two members to form a partnership and jointly submit an expression of interest for the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund commissions programme. However, the expression of interest form should be submitted by only one of you. There are sections of the expression of interest form which will allow you to say how this collaboration would work.

If you have a proposal idea but no artist in mind, we encourage you to send us an expression of interest with your broad project idea. IWM will work together with you to develop your commission opportunity and find the right artist for your project.

If you already have an artist in mind for your proposal, please mention them in your expression of interest - there is a section where you can provide information on them. IWM will consider your recommendation but will discuss the final decision on the artist with you at a later date. If your idea has been developed alongside the artist then please indicate so on your expression of interest. Where an artist has helped develop the commission idea, your expression of interest will be assessed not only on the project concept, but also on the suitability of your selected artist for the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund programme

We will consider contemporary artists or collectives, and we anticipate including – and want to encourage - a broad spectrum of artistic practice from diverse fields as part of the commission programme. We expect the commission programme to draw on the experiences and expertise of artists who are globally engaged, culturally diverse and interested in the dynamic conversation around our subject matter.

If you do not already have an artist in mind, we will support you in finding an artist to shape, hone and develop your commission. You might, but don’t have to, have started a conversation with an artist already or have someone in mind.

Any contemporary artist approached for the commission should expect to demonstrate a track record in working at the level commensurate with this opportunity. An artist with precedent experience and the professional background we are looking for will have received recognition from audiences and/or peers, will have relevant knowledge and training, and will have had work presented to the public by means of exhibition, performance, publication, screening or by other means associated with their practice. You should expect to work closely with the artist to hone the theme, artistic enquiry, siting, budget, production, schedule, delivery, and other questions including rights and legacy for the commissioned work. IWM will also be able to support these conversations.

Not at all, we encourage people with little to no art commissioning experience to get involved. IWM will provide support to first time commissioners.

The life of the commissioned work at the end of the project is something that would be discussed between the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund team, you and the artist. IWM can provide advice and help regarding this. Your organisation may not hold a collection, in which case we would still encourage you to submit a proposal.

We are not looking for expressions of interest from artists, only organisations who have a proposal for a project. An organisation can recommend you as the artist within their expression of interest as someone they want to work with on a commission, and IWM may wish to discuss this further with the applicant. 

The bulk of your expenditure should be about your commission, and a relevant associated programme. However, we will consider needs for staff resource on a case-by-case budget depending on the nature of your commission. We would work with you to review this. Do remember that IWM is here to support you with the delivery of your commissions and associated activity too.

It is not compulsory to invest your own organisations funds to this project, although we encourage you to think about any indirect costs relating to the commission before you apply, such as staff time and support from other departments within your organisation. You must commit to delivering your project from start to end.

We understand that some projects may have ambition that requires an extension to the budget. Within your expression of interest form, we would want you to demonstrate that the core of your ideas is deliverable and not contingent on further external funding.

The final output and focus of your commission project should be an artwork produced by an artist working in collaboration with you, although commissions can have – and may even centre on - an element of community involvement for their development and/or realisation. We expect to see creative thinking about what you’d like to achieve with the commission and an associated programme that supports the central commission, and this may additionally include working with your audiences and communities.

No, we are not currently looking to display or work with art projects that are already in train or are completed.  

We would anticipate that your commission would be finished and associated activities would be delivered within two years of the commission award. IWM would support you in developing your programme rollout.

You will not be required to complete any further applications beyond the Expression of Interest. We will notify partners in Autumn of 2022 if we wish to fund your project based on the information provided in your Expression of Interest. We will then work with you to develop your commission further in good faith.

No, we welcome expressions of interest from any members of the War and Conflict Subject Specialist around the world. The artist could be from the UK or for the right project might be an international artist. The commissioned artwork must be initially presented in the UK and accessible to UK audiences. For international members, this would be achieved by teaming up with a UK partner.

Yes, the representative person who submits the expression of interest should be a member of the SSN. You can sign up here.

Community engagement and outreach aren’t part of the essential selection criteria, but we welcome project proposals that have a benefit to your local communities, or that have a focus on attracting new audiences to your organisation.

We would expect any project to provide their own space to display or to work with a partner venue. As IWM plans its exhibitions at least 3 years in advance, we would be unlikely to have the capacity to display IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund projects during the duration of the project. Any potential future display of commission at IWM would be discussed after funding is placed.

Please email our team on [email protected] and we will assist where possible.