Architects have worked hard to develop ways of winning competitions which are fairer and more appropriate than the traditional encounter on the golf course, but until recently those wanting to work with or commission artists have had to rely on a similar informal method of selection.
An organisation called Axis has a mission to change all this. Describing itself as 'a contemporary visual arts service', it has a computer database which comprises a national central register of contemporary visual artists and craftspeople. Each entry contains a summary of the artist's CV and up to nine images of their work.
The database holds information on almost 2500 artists. Originally these were only artists who had been nominated by their regional arts boards, but now the scheme has been expanded to include self-funded registration, which allows artists and craftspeople to nominate themselves. But to be included on the database they have to show evidence of professional practice.
Included on the database are sculptors, conceptual artists, printmakers, ceramicists, designers, photographers, painters, video artists, jewellery makers, metal workers and representatives of other disciplines. Artists can update their textual details at any time, and are encouraged to do so frequently.
Axis has an Internet site (at http://www.lmu.ac.uk/ces/axis) but at present it only provides information about the service, rather than actually displaying the database.
Until this changes, potential clients wishing to use the service will have to visit one of the eight sites around the UK. It is also possible to search the database over the phone or by post, making use of the skills of Axis's staff. Images are also available on CD-ROM.
Using the Axis database, which is funded through the Arts Councils of England, Wales and Scotland, plus some regional arts boards, is free. It is available at the following sites:
INVERNESS Business Information Source, Bridge House, 20 Bridge Street, Inverness IV1 1QR, tel 01463 71500
GLASGOW Centre for Contemporary Arts, 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3JD, tel 0141 332 7521
EDINBURGH Art in Partnership, 233 Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1JQ, tel 0131 225 4463
DUMFRIES Gracefield Arts Centre, 28 Edinburgh Road, Dumfries, DG1 1NW, tel 01387 262084
NEWCASTLE Northern Arts, 9-10 Osborne Terrace, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 1NZ tel 0191 281 6334
CARDIFF Arts Council of Wales, Museum Place, Cardiff CF1 3NX, tel 01222 394711
LEEDS Axis, Leeds Metropolitan University, Calverley Street, Leeds LS1 3HE, tel 0113 283 3125
LONDON The Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London WC1E 7BT, tel 0171 637 1022.
More information about Axis can be obtained from the Leeds address above.