Public Art Commissions & Donations
The City commissions and accepts donations of high quality, innovative public art works and monuments that are relevant to their prospective community and context, and enrich the urban experience of Toronto’s residents and visitors. These City-owned works of public art and historical monuments enhance public spaces all over Toronto.
New acquisitions are added each year through commissions and donations of public art enlivening municipal spaces, parks, transit infrastructure, bridges, underpasses and more. Learn more about the City’s public art commission and donation process.
The City of Toronto coordinates competitions for artist submissions and community consultation, assembles and manages the jury or selection panel, and oversees all aspects of the commissioning process through to the completion of the public art work.
The artist brief, call for submissions, and jury composition are devised in consultation with City staff from relevant departments. Alternatively, an external public art consultant may be contracted, in which case municipal staff devises the request for proposals from art consultants.
Commissions are awarded through a competitive process. Competitions are adjudicated by a qualified independent selection panel with professional expertise in contemporary art and knowledge of the local context.
Artist Selection Process
Public art competitions are the City’s primary form of artist selection. Depending on requirements specific to the project, the competition may be open, limited or invitational:
- Open – an open competition is most frequently practiced by the City. The competition is a widely publicized call for artists to submit entries; this is the process most favoured by the City and adhered to whenever project budget and timeframe allow.
- Limited – limited competitions may be staged when a project requires a specific art form, or there are pressing time restrictions on its completion. In this instance a smaller number of artists are invited to submit their qualifications and project proposals.
- Invitational – invitational competitions are when the commissioning body invites an artist to submit a proposal to be judged by the selection panel. The City rarely employs this form of competition.
The form of competition to be used for a particular project is determined by City staff.
An independent selection panel is convened for each public art commission under the City of Toronto’s jurisdiction.
These selection panels select short-listed and winning artists, measuring the artist’s proposal and past work against the general goals of the City’s Public Art Policy and the specific objectives of the project at hand.
Qualified selection panels are comprised of:
- Three recognised visual arts professionals and two representatives of the community with interests in the site.
- One of the art professionals is also a member of the local community.
- Visual arts professionals may include artists, curators, art educators, visual art administrators, art historians, architects and landscape architects.
- Art dealers are not allowed to participate on selection panels.
Many of the art works in Toronto’s public spaces have been donated to the City by individuals, groups or organizations.
The acceptance of artistic gifts and commemorations is governed by the Public Art and Monuments Donations Policy, updated and adopted by City Council in January 2017.
The Public Art and Monuments Donation Policy aims to ensure that all donated artworks accepted and installed in Toronto’s public realm demonstrate:
- Outstanding aesthetic values
- Meet technical safety and sustainability criteria
- Demonstrate clear relationships to the City, Ontario and/or Canada
- Are appropriate to the surroundings where the work will be located.
Toronto Arts & Culture Services staff has a wealth of experience in working closely with the donor of a prospective addition to the City’s collection to ensure the integrity of the donation process.
Acceptance of public art into the City’s collection is decided through a two-step process:
If the preliminary application is successful, the donor will be asked to complete the full application, which will be provided by City staff. The Public Art Office has expertise and experience in assisting prospective donors.
If the preliminary application is unsuccessful, the applicant will be informed in writing, and the application will not proceed.
Please send preliminary applications to:
Manager Cultural Partnerships
100 Queen Street West
East Tower, 9th Floor
An art collection exhibited outdoors requires ongoing maintenance due to exposure to harsh weather conditions, vandalism and pollution.
Toronto Culture is committed to maintaining its outdoor Art and Monuments collection. Under the direction of the division’s Public Art Conservator, works from the collection are cleaned and conserved as required.