Money Matters: UKRG Summer Event July 2015
Gander & White’s Approach to Estimating and Tendering
Jim Grundy, Director of Art Operations, Gander & White Ltd
Amanda Sharp, Divisional Director, Gander & White Ltd

A key part of the Registrar’s role in exhibition projects is to advise on transport options, obtain estimates and liaise with shipping agents to ensure loan objects arrive safely, on time and within budget. As Cassia Pennington advised in the preceding talk, “exhibitions are expensive, be realistic about the true cost of transport”. While Cassia spoke about budget planning from a Registrar’s perspective, in Gander & White’s presentation, Jim Grundy and Amanda Sharp went through how they go about estimating and tendering, what their rates are based on and how we can ensure we get the most accurate indication of costs from shipping agents.

We all know that it costs money to maintain the climate-controlled, fire-rated, secure buildings that we store and display our collections in, that specialist storage systems don’t come cheap, and that moving a museum object from A to B can involve complex packing, challenging access, high specification vehicles, multiple technicians, and time. It is not surprising then that when we and our lenders expect the same high museum standards from fine art shipping agents, they incur these costs too and need to factor them into their rates.

In order to provide a full and accurate estimate of transport costs, Jim outlined the minimum information they require from us, ideally with all information presented in a single spreadsheet:

  • Loan or accession number
  • Lender and contact details with address
  • Object details, including artist or maker’s name, medium, date, dimensions
  • Packing information
  • Tour venues
  • Courier information

The more specific you can be with your requirements, the more accurate the quote will be. Costs vary significantly if the lender is packing the object, or a museum crate is required; if objects are to be transported by part load or dedicated transport; if there are access restrictions at the lender’s premises; if the loan can only be collected or delivered on a specific day or time; if a courier is required or not. So many ifs!

For any details you don’t have, it is better that you make the assumptions rather than leaving it up to individual agents. This creates a level playing field and enables you to compare the estimates ‘like for like’.

Depending on the procurement processes in your organisation and the size and value of the contract, you may need to request quotes by email or through a formal tender process. Amanda explained how Gander & White responds when a framework agreement is in place. In this situation a museum selects approved suppliers through a formal procurement process and agrees set terms and conditions and ‘master ceiling rates’. For each exhibition or touring project the museum then invites approved suppliers to tender via a mini-competition. The agreement does not commit the museum to using a certain agent or guarantee how much work they will get, nor do agents have any obligation to make a submission for each project.

Gander & White assess each invitation to tender based on their experience of working on similar projects, and their capacity to deliver this particular project. If they choose to tender, they submit a detailed response to the tender template provided, including a method statement and a full cost breakdown, contacting agents worldwide to estimate overseas costs. The museum then evaluates all submissions and awards the contract to the successful agent. For fairness and transparency it is important that you are clear about how you will score different estimates. Shipping agents (like us) are juggling many different projects at any one time so make sure to specify when the tender will be awarded and inform them when you have made a decision.

While Registrars don’t need much convincing, it is always helpful to be reminded of what it is we are paying for when we draw on the expertise and specialist services of fine art shipping agents. It was great to get Jim and Amanda’s insights into what we can do to assist them in providing an accurate indication of transport costs to help inform our exhibition budgets and planning. Thank you both, and to UKRG for another excellent event.

Lucy Malcolm Clark, Project Registrar, National Museums Scotland