The Town of Victoria Park: Best Practice in Public Art

By Arts Law Centre of Australia on 26th November 2014



Damien Butler concept for Lathlain Place, 2014. Installation due March 2015. This is the first artwork procured under the new Arts Law contract. Images: © Damien Butler Reproduced with Permission.

The Town of Victoria Park on the Swan River in Western Australia is a vibrant, urban community. Its local government authority understands the important role played by public art in shaping an exciting, creative and unique environment. The Town’s Public Art Masterplan envisages expenditure of over $700,000 on new public artworks in 2013-2015.  Additionally  the farsighted ‘percent for art’ policy requires developers of projects with a value of $5 million or more to make a monetary contribution of 1-1.25% of the value of the development to the Town for a public artwork or incorporate a work of art of that value into the development.

In 2014, the Town worked with Arts Law to develop a Public Art: Design and Commission Agreement for the Town to use when commissioning artworks as well as a template agreement for developers.  Arts Law’s ‘artists first’ policy meant that it would only assist on the basis that the Town agreed that the agreements would be prepared on a best practice basis. This approach was consistent with what the Town wanted – to strike a fair balance between its needs and those of the artists. Arts Law is often approached by organisations, such as councils, for advice on developing fair and equitable systems for negotiating or contracting with artists. Arts Law will only provide legal advice in such situations if it considers that doing so will assist in embedding best practice within that organisation and thereby create flow-on benefits to a substantial number of artists.

Arts Law met with staff of the Town of Victoria Park, reviewed its policies and developed two separate agreements – one for use when the Town commissioned public artworks and one for the Town to make available to any developers seeking to commission artworks for incorporation into their development projects. These agreements dealt with payment protocols, insurance, the design approval process and the construction process as well as what happens if the Town or developer rejects a design or the artist is unable to complete the artwork due to illness. Significantly, these best practice agreements contain clear requirements for additional payments to be made to artists where an unreasonable number of changes are requested. The agreements explicitly protect the artist’s moral rights and copyright while recognising that one aspect of encouraging a vital creative culture which engages the public with public spaces is the ability to facilitate and publish images of such works for non-commercial purposes. They also deal with the artist’s rights when repairs or restoration work is required and clearly set out a deaccessioning process.

Based on this collaboration, Arts Law has now revised and updated its own Public Art Design and Commission sample agreement to reflect best practice for local government authorities and other organisations wanting to commission public artworks.

"The Town of Victoria Park has been working closely with Arts Law over the past nine months in formulating leading edge documents in support of contractual arrangement for public art commissions. Arts Law asked to use this collaboration as a case study given the great strides taken together in forging ahead with arts industry best practice. The Town is pleased to collaborate towards positive outcomes for our artists, developers and the broader community. This association is a valued relationship.”- Mayor Trevor Vaughan


Popular case studies

  • 1. Wamod Namok’s “Kangaroo” - Copyright infringement

    In 2005, reproductions of Bardayal Nadjamerrek's "Kangaroo" painting were offered for sale on the internet accompanied by statements that any sales would result in royalties being paid to the artist. Sadly, the reproductions were unauthorised and the artist had never received any royalties.

    View here.

  • 2. Mandy Davis and her “Emu” painting

    Artists in the Black client Mandy Davis, has received a settlement from a company for their infringement of her copyright and her moral rights. The case is a great example of how AITB works.

    View here.

  • 3. David Beaumont Case Study – Do I need permission to use this old photo in my work?

    David Beaumont is a Melbourne based visual artist whose works are held in private collections in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. He is a five time finalist in the ANL Maritime Art Prize and has exhibited in over a dozen solo exhibitions since 1999. In late 2010, he contacted Arts Law regarding an exhibition he was in the process of creating which addressed the controversial and highly emotional theme of terminal illness and euthanasia.

    View here.

  • 4. Picture perfect - protecting copyright when selling photographs online

    A young up and coming photographer called Arts Law for advice about starting a website to sell her photographs online.

    View here.

  • 5. Yiwarra Kuju: the Canning Stock Route

    In late 2006, the Perth-based non-profit cultural organisation FORM initiated Ngurra Kuju Walyja – One Country, One People — The Canning Stock Route Project. The project began with modest aims to present an Aboriginal history of the Canning Stock Route through art and oral history and establish economic and professional development opportunities in remote communities. The project quickly grew to unexpected proportions. Within a year 110 Aboriginal artists and contributors were involved from 10 art and culture centres across 17 remote communities in the Goldfields, Pilbara and Kimberley, with a team of nine Aboriginal and five non-Aboriginal co-curators, multimedia crew and cultural advisors. The Canning Stock Route collection, which includes around 130 artworks, was defined by the curatorial team over two years and was acquired by the National Museum of Australia in December 2008.

    View here.

  • 6. Rod Nash - A cancelled commission case study

    Rod Nash was shocked when a Sydney council told him to stop work on his sculpture “Seed” which they had commissioned him to make for a public library. Rod contacted Arts Law to find out his rights.

    View here.

  • 7. Breaking up is hard to do … what happens when a band member leaves.

    Arts Law recently advised members of a band on the copyright status of a number of their songs after one of the band members had decided to leave the band

    View here.

  • 8. Respect and Protect Indigenous Art and Culture

    You can help ensure that Indigenous art and culture is respected and protected

    Indigenous Australians’ art and culture is a highly regarded and much publicised feature of Australian society. Commercial operators who deal with Indigenous art, play a key role in ensuring that Indigenous art and culture is respected and appreciated, rather than exploited.

    View here.

  • 9. Writing about Real People

    In mid 2010, Arts Law was contacted by an author who written an autobiographical book about her experience as a victim of domestic abuse. She contacted Arts Law to obtain legal advice outlining the risks of breaching defamation laws due to her use of real life people and events in the book.

    View here.

  • 10. Carol Langley - Understanding liability when publishing images and interviews.

    Over the course of 2005, then Arts Law lawyer Katherine Giles and one of our pro bono lawyers gave several advices to writer Carol Langley about her book “Beneath the Sequined Surface”.

    View here.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that this web site may contain images of deceased people.