Art, and the Tender Process

How do you think the Tender Board or its stipulated processes would go about evaluating the following painting, had it been a subject of tender to paint a woman, for instance?

Any suggestions?

Well, an “evaluator” who most probably would have no clue about art in the first place might give this painting a 1 out of 10 for effort, and would object to the style of painting as it does not and will not represent the person to be painted. Why they didn’t just opt for a photograph in the first place is another subject altogether, they want a painting for goodness’ sake.

So they do their “research” and identify three or four companies to bid for this project. Yes, I know, bidding to execute a work of art. Stay with me please. They don’t tell them any parameters other than “we want to commission a painting of a woman, and it must be ready in three weeks”. Or, they screw up the whole process by actually providing you with an outline, and demand that you use your artistic ability to paint within those lines! They never, ever, offer a clue as to how much their budget would be, but would rather get the companies fortunate enough to be selected through their arduous research slug it out, forgetting – willingly – that such a painting which would satisfy their requirements could go for anything between BD5 to probably several million. Oh, I forgot, they actually invite those hapless bidders to come for a meeting to technically evaluate their bids. As if we’re building a house or car or some other product which can be quantified and qualified without too much effort…

The pressure is always on beyond that as well. They usually want a miracle and delivery yesterday, only for the award of such a tender to surpass the must deliver by date!

So you wait. And wait. And then the Board opens the financial tenders and make the bids known. Then you wait for weeks some more and then be notified that your bid failed on technical merit!

What? Are you serious? I think us as artists would find it very heart-breaking if our competitors win on creative merits, and although it’s sad but we tend to accept it because we know that that particular competitor might have assigned a better and more appropriate director for that project, fine, but for all that’s Holy’s sake, my paints and dyes and brushes are exactly the same as, or as similar as can be with all the other bidders, so what exactly are the metrics used to “evaluate” the bids?

I’m glad that the guy who painted that weird picture above is dead. Regardless, he would probably be turning like a mis-aligned bloody turbine shaft in his grave non-the-less because of a hint that he might have failed a Bahraini Tender Board evaluation due to a fucking technical merit!


  1. milter

    Well, for starters, weird minds need a lot of breathing space.

    Maybe Spain allows more space for weirdos, than many other countries, i.e. weirdos that don’t need a tender to create.

    How about Salvador Dali’s “Birth of The New Man”:

    [ed: original link edited]

  2. Anarchist

    Can we deduce from this post that you have just lost a filming contract and are a little upset about the way it panned out?

    1. Post

      Regardless of our success or failure in acquiring a particular contract, do you not think that the tender process is fundamentally flowed when it comes to evaluating the intangible and that forcing a cube into a round hole is what is being attempted without much thought to the actual process which has been designed primarily for building and construction contracts?

  3. Anonny

    Lived and worked with this since 1986, Mahmood. But do worry, the rest of the world is going this way too, and Bahrainis wont fight this as hard as we expats tried to. It’s the status quo and it probably wont change. We are all open-minded and imaginative in our conversations, aren’t we? Until the recently-graduated with his useful surname and nice suit gets the marketing manager position he wanted and starts to get nervous, then you get the lid of fear placed firmly upon the creative imagination .. for decades.

    I’m still at it, but my time dealing with insecure suits burned me badly. Try being a sound designer or editor, the guy on the ground actually _creating_. Try it for years and years. It’s hard, my friend.

  4. jane

    Many talented or creative individuals unequivocally agree with you, but until I read your piece highlighting this obscene local practice, I figured few if anyone else in Bahrain/Middle East cared or even perceived the tragedy of the concept. ‘Being competitive/cheapest is considered the business’ and even praised as being clever – art, even professional quality is just an irrelevance as it is not perceived in the first place.

    ‘Anonny ‘is right, it is so rapidly spreading all over the world from these parts, instead of the other way around as one might expect. As populations explode, individuality and creative thinking dwindles within stifled cultures, eventually out numbering by billions those few with passion for the intangible. It all becomes the lowest bidder. The curve is actually very steep exponential, levelling out at nothingness. I think Orbit-Showtime started at that level and has somehow gone into anti matter. As for billboards and radio, OMG!.

    As standards decline, people’s perceptions of quality blurs to monkey see, monkey do. Look at the level of presentation on some of the major networks. Or the “Your call is important to us” syndrome. ( Even I stole that from a local blog).
    Advertising and Advertising Agencies and the like are considered to be a quick buck, “I can do that’, based on what we constantly see and hear. No qualification, thus no value is attached to marketing and the creative arts. (Hence so very many outfits in tiny Bahrain alone). Give the job to my brother or sister. Or let’ set up something and print some money, nobody cares. It is a fact that so many unqualified immigrants to Britain seeking jobs, now work in Advertising Agencies, physically tendering for accounts rather than pitching. (I also read that but I fully agree).

    Most corporates ‘tender’ for everything from which piece of ‘Chinese’kit will suffice to which Advertising Agency will mix their inane and constant spew.

    I read the blog of another well-known name about Bahrain and he has been banging on and on for years about this Middle Eastern obsession and ignorance of ‘tendering for art’ rather than pitching for merit and ability.
    Although His passion is often centred around the Lebanese window to abhorrent corruption at the radio which seems to be allowed to go on unhindered – and I read on the same recently that a ‘Tender’ is to be issued soon to get the cheapest deal. A never ending spiral into the abyss.

  5. Anonny

    You gonna write something more about this topic?

    “Oh no, I won’t miss this” #godhelpus

  6. jane

    A shining example for the world to aspire to. ‘KHALID!!! KHALID!!!! I was told by one of the DJs that the piercing voice of the lady is none other than the actual PR girl at the bank concerned and the zombie male is a clerk who happened to be passing by the studio at Radio Bahrain at the time.
    No shame, no notion of shame, a deluded perspective of self brilliance.
    One would think it drive customers away.

  7. Anonny

    I can’t remember which bank it was. I thought the male voice was Imran. Awful ad. I used to work so hard with what I was given to make acceptable radio spots. These guys just get an ad on air like _that_ [snaps fingers]. So sad.

Comments are closed.