Acquisition of a work of art through a competitive procedure

Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam is an academic hospital where care, science and education as well as hospitality towards patients, visitors, staff and students are at the center. This largest academic medical center in the Netherlands receives a large number of patients and visitors every day and has around 15,000 employees.

It is therefore not surprising that the public areas of the hospital (in addition to being clean, tidy and well maintained) can also look quite inspiring. Art can contribute to that. The building is spacious, exudes calm and is therefore suitable for displaying art.

Because there is no exception for art in the Tender Act, art purchases must also be tendered. Not just any bid.

The purchasing department of Erasmus MC wanted to use a tendering procedure that is well suited to the purchase of a work of art: Namely, a competition where artists can excel with their creativity by submitting a unique design. AevesBenefit is tasked with overseeing this extraordinary procedure.

The procedure

The tender was to lead to a new work of art on Erasmus MC’s forecourt. The competition took place according to the limited variant, where the number of providers is limited by a pre-qualification. This creates two phases.

In order to bring the tender sufficiently to artists, it was not only marketed through TenderNed. For example, awareness has been created via the LinkedIn page of Erasmus MC and via BK information, the professional magazine for visual artists. The suppliers in this market can be art organisations, but also visual artists or independent entrepreneurs.

Phase 1
Interested artists were asked to write a vision with a proposal in the form of an action plan. The artist was allowed to decide for himself which location would suit his art best. Three potential locations have been designated by Erasmus MC. This is evident from the tender material via floor plans and photos from different angles.

In the plan, the artist had to justify the choice of his chosen site and state why his artwork would appeal to the public. The place is public and is visited by a wide audience.

Of course, there were also requirements for the artwork, such as maximum costs and a final delivery date. It was also a requirement that the artwork should last for at least 30 years and maintenance costs should not exceed 5% of the artwork’s value.

Finally, the tenderers had to fulfill two core competencies: experience in designing art commissions in public outdoor spaces on the one hand and experience in art design that matches the architecture of the building in question and the target audience on the other.

Pop Up Bubbles, a site-specific artwork Nadim Karam to be installed at Erasmus MC

Inherent in a competition procedure is that an independent jury evaluates everything. Only if a tenderer met all requirements and the jury had assessed the vision with the approach plan as ‘adequate’, was the tenderer assessed as suitable.

In total, there were 16 suitable applications, but only three progressed to the second phase. By ranking the artists based on the scores on the vision with action plan, it was possible to decide who was allowed to continue. The three lucky artists received an amount to train phase 2.

Phase 2
The three artists elaborated the design further, as presented in the action plan. As part of the 2nd phase, they were allowed to individually present their detailed designs to the jury in a maximum of one hour.

The format of this presentation was free. For example, one artist showed a video, the other included a digital design program in the presentation, miniatures of the possible artworks were presented, and the material with which the artwork was to be made was brought to show.

The review

AevesBenefit consultant Annemarie Mansvelder did not assess herself, but was closely involved in every step of the procedure. She explains: “In this special tender procedure, the market’s creativity is optimally utilized. As a result, we were presented with three very different works of art. The jury assessed, among other things, whether the artwork fits Erasmus MC’s function, target group, situation and architecture.”

The jury consisted of members of the Erasmus MC Art Committee. They are responsible for purchasing and managing visual art on the wall, on the floor and in the air in public spaces. It was also new for the jury to purchase and evaluate a work of art in this way. A huge challenge to stay within the framework and to judge objectively. It is AevesBenefit’s task to offer good help and guidance in this regard.

Annemarie: “It is important to properly motivate why a work of art fits or does not fit. You can do this, for example, by looking at the artwork through different ‘glasses’. It was therefore carefully investigated whether the artwork appeals to a wide audience, such as staff, children, patients but also visitors. Ultimately, they need to get some experience out of the job. It is up to the artist to convince the jury to show and elaborate on this as well as possible.”

The ultimate winner was designed by visual artist Nadim Karam (founder of Atelier Hapsitus in Beirut and Nadim Karam Studio in Rotterdam). The work ‘Pop up Bubbles’ depicts dreams of people, now and in the future. The 7.5 meter high steel sculpture consists of twenty forms of air bubbles with poetic figures.

The jury is particularly positive about the layering in this work: “Everyone can form their own image. It is accessible to everyone, but also has its own story for everyone. The artist talks about dreams and not about being sick or getting better, so the individual as an individual with his own story is central and not just the patient.”

Results, evaluation and follow-up

Erasmus MC and the jury members were very positive about the collaboration. “This tender, through a procedure that is new to them, was concluded with a super result. AevesBenefit supervised this procedure from A to Z, gave the right advice and ensured a feasible planning taking into account the creation of the artwork,” says Mansvelder.

In order to give optimal scope for the creative process involved, sufficient time has been allocated to the artists within the two phases of the procedure to prepare the offers. The project group has also thought carefully about, on the one hand, careful prerequisites, and on the other hand, left many options open.

By not “closing” the supply, artists could make optimal use of their creativity. Erasmus MC and the winning artist will now start applying for the municipal permit(s) and the implementation. According to the planning, the artwork will be placed in late 2022, early 2023.

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