Someone brought to my attention that the National Museum of Singapore is currently seeking “REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL FOR TURNKEY CONTRACTOR FOR THE RECONCEPUALISATION AND REVAMP OF THE SINGAPORE LIVING GALLERIES AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE” (those who have access to Gebiz can see the specific documents). Yes, good to see that even a ‘new-ish’ museum is seeking to reinvent itself to improve visitor-experience. And it will be a juicy contract, with someone estimating that the work will likely cost a few million dollars.
My post here is not about the new contents. My concern is about transparency in who the job is awarded. In the past few years – since the start of the new NMS – many exhibition projects were given to gsmprjct creation (or ‘gsm’ for short). This is a Canadian company that has also done a few other museum/gallery jobs in Singapore, such as Army Museum. But the closest relationship it has is still with NMS; if I am not wrong (please correct me if I am), not only did gsm do the bulk of the content work for the new NMS, it was also given an ongoing contract (annual??) to provide ‘design’ services to NMS for all its recurrent design-needs a few years ago. It was also clear (as such financial information is available in Gebiz) that even when gsm was more expensive than other bidders for the same job, this higher-cost was in some cases not be an impediment to NMS awarding the job to gsm. This close relationship is largely thanks to the good working relationship between then director Lee Chor Lin and senior gsm staff.
Even though Chor Lin is no longer in NMS, I wonder if this NMS-gsm relationship is set to continue. I say this because it is quite a well-know fact (the museum-circle is small-ish) that current director Angelita is close friends with a senior female staff in gsm, B.L.. Am I allowed to say that describing them as ‘close friends’ is probably a gross understatement? They have been close way back when Angelita was at Asian Civilisations Museum and B.L. was a colleague in the late 90s. And let’s say that through many personal ups-and-downs through the past decade and a half, they have remained real close.
I am in no way suggesting that anything improper has happened between NMS and gsm. I am just saying that based on facts, gsm has a more-than-close working relationship with NMS. And with Angelita being closely linked to a senior gsm staff as a dear friend, I hope that if gsm and other companies pitch for this job, all bids should get a fair chance during the assessment phase. I am confident that Angelita would be a transparent member of the bid-assessment team by declaring any conflicts of interests in any of the bids, if any. For the sake of prudence in the spending of public monies, should I whisper ‘Brompton’ as a gentle reminder?
LATEST: When the call-for-quotes closed on 24/10/2013, 3 companies had responded. Gallagher at about $2m, Cityneon $3.3m and Kingsmen $3.7. Nope, GSM did not bid. But in the past, GSM had worked on projects with Kingsmen (such as Army Museum), and it is not clear whether GSM is the creative-lead in Kingsmen’s bid (this will not be easy to find out as the bidding-system allows you to see the main companies who are bidding, but not the details of who are in their consortiums). Whatever it is, with the highest quote, it is not likely that Kingsmen will get the job. Let’s see if the relatively new USA museum-design-firm Gallagher can clinch it’s first significant museum-job in Singapore.
As of 12 Nov 2013, National Museum has published another tender to call for contractor to reconceptualise and revamp National Museum’s history gallery (tender closes 13 Dec 2013). Another multi-million contract on offer; let’s see who bids!