Tuesday, September 11, 2018

First contributor news

An rca press release has revealed contributor news for this year’s sale.  First named contributors are Nick Park, Maggi Hambling and Bob and Roberta smith.  The press releases also confirms that cards will be £60 this year.

Royal College of Art, Darwin Building, entrance off Jay Mews SW7 2EU 
Exhibition & postcard selection: Sat 1 December 12 – 6pm; Sun 2 and Mon 3 December 10am – 6pm
Collection day: Thurs 6 December from 4 – 8pm
Viewing day: Fri 30 November from 12 – 7pm 

The Royal College of Art (RCA) is proud to announce details of its fun and exciting annual fundraising exhibition, RCA Secret, sponsored by Stewarts.

Established in 1994, Stewarts RCA Secret is London’s original postcard exhibition where supporters have the opportunity to own artwork by some of the world’s most celebrated artists, illustrators and designers, as well as up-and-coming graduates and students from the College.

Each year supporters have their art credentials tested as the identity of their chosen artwork’s maker is kept secret and revealed only once the £60 donation is made. All proceeds go to the RCA Fund, which supports the next generation of RCA students at a formative time in their careers.

More than 2,000 postcards will be exhibited this year and confirmed contributors include Wallace and Gromit creator, Nick Park, contemporary artist Bob and Roberta Smith, and painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling.

Every contribution is an original artwork, produced with the same rigour as any other work by the maker. Although restricted to being postcard sized, the subject matter and approaches vary widely, from photography and collage, to drawing, painting, and even sculpture and embroidery.

Previous contributors include renowned alumni and friends of the College including Christopher Bailey, David Bailey, Sir James Dyson, Tracey Emin, Norman Foster, Thomas Heatherwick, Anish Kapoor, Mike Leigh, Steve McQueen, Grayson Perry, Zandra Rhodes, Sir Paul Smith and Yinka Shonibare.

Stewarts RCA Secret will be open for viewing from Friday 30 November at the RCA’s Kensington campus. Supporters will have the opportunity to purchase their postcards from Saturday 1 December to Monday 3 December, just in time for Christmas.

Images of all postcards in the exhibition will be released online from 9am on Thursday 29 November, 24 hours before the exhibition opens to the public. In order to purchase a postcard, supporters must register on the RCA Secret website to obtain a buyer’s ID. Buyers will be able to purchase their chosen postcards, initially capped at four per buyer, throughout the exhibition from 1 to 3 December. On the last day of the exhibition, everyone will be welcome to come back and choose unlimited postcards. 

Postcards can be collected in person on the collection day, Thursday 6 December, or posted once the exhibition has closed.

Stewarts is proud to sponsor the RCA Secret exhibition. Stewarts is the UK's leading litigation-only law firm. They have a strong international reputation for excellence in ground breaking and innovative litigation. http://www.stewartslaw.com

Thursday, September 06, 2018


The price of cards is going up to £60 for this year according to this blog

Text reproduced below


RCA Secret

Opening: 30 Nov 2018, 12:00 - 19:00

30 Nov 2018 – 3 Dec 2018


  • Kensington site: Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU
RCA Secret is a fundraising exhibition of original postcard-sized artworks by internationally acclaimed artists, illustrators and designers plus up-and-coming graduates and students from the Royal College of Art.


Established in 1994, RCA Secret is London’s original postcard exhibition. RCA Secret not only directly helps the next generation of artists and designers pursue their studies and supports students at a formative time in their careers, but also gives you a chance to get your hands on original works of art for a small donation. The Secret? Each postcard is signed only on the back, so supporters don’t know the identity of the artists until they have made their donation.
Each postcard in the exhibition is unique and available to keep for a donation of £60.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

An RCA secret card isn't just for Christmas

Just under 3 months to go until RCA Secret and for those who haven't noticed the college has published details of the arrangements for this year on the RCA Secret site.

Lets start with the positives.  Cards have gone out very early to contributing artists and with the deadline for return not being until the beginning of November it is to be hoped that this will be a really great year for contributions.  Already on twitter artists such as Peter Jones, Anita Klein and Susie Hamilton have tweeted that they have returned their cards to the college so this seems very promising.   Also last year contributing artists were only sent 2 cards to return.  I understand that artists have been able to do 3 or even 4 cards each this year which means hopefully a bumper number of cards and more opportunities for fans to get what they want.

Next the college has reintroduced the viewing day.  It is clearly important to get an opportunity to see the cards in the flesh not just online and the college have responded to the criticisms of last years show by having a full viewing day on 30 November 2018.  I am sure I will see many of you there, I have already booked a day off from work.

Also the college have relaxed the rules on numbers of cards that can be bought so that on the final day of the sale, Monday 3 December, so you can return to the sale and buy as many more cards as you like.  I've been saying for some time this would be a good idea, so I'm pleased the college have implemented it.  The limit on purchases to 4 cards each is essential at the start of the sale but there seems no reason to continue to enforce that once the initial rush has subsided.  I'm sure I'm bound to return on the last day for a final trawl and the opportunity to scoop up a couple more cards.  I suspect I am not alone.  More cards sold, more money for bursaries so everyone is a winner.  I expect the cards to sell well give how close the sale is to Christmas.  

On the more controversial side the raffle has been scrapped this year.  I appreciate the raffle wasn't universally popular but it's worth remembering that the raffle was introduced for 3 reasons – to bring extra revenue to the college; to try and stop people queueing for so long as local residents complained; and because it levelled the field and meant that everyone had a chance of getting the best cards, not just the predominantly male and 100% able bodied people who were prepared to queue for 2 weeks plus outside the sale.  If the raffle is scrapped then an efficient system has to be introduced to deal with the sale day.  The college have simply said at the moment that camping is banned and that queueing will not be allowed until 8am on the morning of the sale and that security will be around to enforce this.  I'm struggling to understand how that works in practice.  

The reality is that there will be a number of people – at least 100, probably more, who would have been prepared to queue for longer than 4 hours for the sale.  It can be assumed that most of those people will be there at 8am on the day, and many will have turned up much earlier than that.  How will this be dealt with?  Who will be 1st, 2nd, 3rd in the queue when the college allows queuing at 8am.  If it is a free for all then I worry that it could get unpleasant.  People may be put off coming at all, which would be sad.  The college need to, in my opinion, give information as to how they envisage this working.

Anyway I will be sure to publish updates and thoughts on this blog, together with any news I get.  Looking forward to that first contributor news.

Do let me know what your thoughts are on the changes.   

Sunday, May 06, 2018


True to their word the RCA have consulted with some of those who complained about last years show.  I wasn't asked initially but have now given them my thoughts.   Hopefully the results of the consultation will be out soon and that the views of the those consulted is taken into account.  It will be the autumn before we know it and I would hope that we will soon have a date for this years show as well so that we know what to work to.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

RCA secret 2018 will return in the autumn

The college have announced on their website that this years RCA secret will return in the autumn of 2018. 

They also say that this will be the 25th year and 25th Sale.  I'm not sure that is right.  RCA secret started in 1994 so I guess you could just about shoehorn that as being "the 25th year" of RCA secret (although most I think would argue that was 2019).  As there was no sale in 2012 this will definitely be only the 24th sale.  

Anyway away from the pedantry it is exciting news.  Can't wait for the next incarnation.  Let's hope the college make good on their offer to discuss with the fans the format of the show after last years disastrous sale day.

Here's the text from the article:

The RCA will launch its 25th annual RCA Secret exhibition and sale in Autumn 2018.

Since its launch in 1994, the RCA's annual fundraising postcard exhibition and sale features over 1,000 postcard-sized drawings, collages, photographs and sculptures by some of the world’s most celebrated artists and designers, as well as by promising students from the College.

All proceeds of RCA Secret go to the RCA Fund, funding bursaries and scholarships going to students who benefit from the financial aid the RCA is able to provide through this unique fundraiser.

RCA Secret attracts high-profile art collectors and passionate art lovers. Each of the postcards on display is sold anonymously, with the artist only being revealed after the point of sale, once the card is bought by a collector. Previous contributors include David Hockney, Yinka Shonibare, David Bowie, John Baldessari, Tracey Emin and Christopher Bailey.

In 2018, RCA Secret will mark its twenty-fifth year. More information and dates coming soon…

In the meantime, please support students to complete their studies and make a gift to the RCA Fund today.  

To view postcard images of past RCA Secret exhibitions and for more details on the event visit http://london.secret.rca.ac.uk

Sunday, September 17, 2017

My RCA secret 2017

So much to say about this year's sale. Where to start. I suppose there is only place - the queue chaos on Saturday. I was lucky enough to be a guest of my daughter who won the raffle, will tell you further down what we bought. We were quite hopeful of getting cards high up on the list being in 48th and 49th place respectively.

Arriving outside the college we were greeted with what appeared to be an organised queue, smiling friendly staff brandishing pastries. I was curious as to how the queue would be dealt with inside but assumed we would be let into the exhibition in stages and be assembled in order inside. In the 3 queues outside there was no attempt to assemble people in order save for the division of the three queues.

It was a bonus when one of the organisers announced that we would be let in soon and could go into the exhibition.

Nowhere in any of the literature before the sale was there any suggestion that there would be a free for all once inside the building. Indeed the winning notice from the college assured winners:

"your place in the queue is guaranteed"

As we all now know though that was the colleges intention of how it would work once inside which led to anger, bitterness and a sense of being unfair and cheated. I can totally understand all these emotions. Whilst I was not badly affected by the issues, as we probably ended up in a similar position than we would have been had the queueing system been implemented as promised, it was inherently just so unfair, especially to those who had been drawn in the top 10 and ended up low down in the actual queue.

The college have apologised for this huge misjudgment and offered to consult with regular attendees going forward. Good for them for apologising, I'm sure they've been deluged with complaints from people most of which are entirely justified. The bottom line is now that it happened, mistakes were made, we all need to move on and hopefully there will be a more consultative process going forward. There's a lot of love for rca secret, we all want it to succeed and we all want positive news stories coming out about it.

Before I move on to happy stuff I thought I might share some of my thoughts about the changes. These are my views and you may well disagree.

1. The 250 raffle - this could have worked well if the college had properly enforced the queueing. I liked the fact that photo ID was insisted upon but cannot understand the illogical decision to allow people to win multiple places in the queue (even though I benefitted from it this year). It's much fairer to give each raffle winner one winning place in the queue at most. If the college want to stop queuing the more different people winning the raffle the better.

2. No in person viewing before sale day - I really, really don't get this. Last year only having 2 days to view was bad enough but this year not having any is completely baffling. Unless the college are going to release much more information about the media cards have been created in the photographs online are not sufficient to give people enough guidance about what the card is. We need to see them in the flesh.

3. No contributor information - only on the day before the sale were we told some of the contributors for the sale, and even then key contributors weren't mentioned. Was a decision made not to publicise the sale? It certainly felt that way, maybe because there is so much concern about queueing.

4. Drawing the blinds - a minor point but the decision to draw the blinds on the exhibition made it feel very dreary. That space the college have is so wonderful with those big windows and natural light. Why not show it off.

5. Too few cards - a decision was made to only send 2 cards to the vast majority of contributing artists and as a result there were only 1450 odd cards in this year's exhibition. Less choice, less money for the college bursaries. Less than half of the cards of some of the bumper years. A real shame.

6. No reveal at time of purchase - I thought the system of handing out the envelopes with the artists name at the time of purchase was great last year.  If collection day is still happening, which I remain unconvinced about, then please can we have that back?

7.  The quality of the cards - the card stock used this year felt a bit thinner than usual so as a result more cards curled or got dented. 

Anyway enough of that you want to know my experience!  Firstly the raffle.  I was obviously delighted with my daughter carys winning and she was equally as excited.  My 2 daughters have grown up with rca secret and for years have made their own lists and bought their own cards.  

On the day the cards were released I spent hours pouring over them online until my eyes were exhausted, having taken off a day at work to do so.  I'd spotted some I liked but it is so difficult online without the in person validation.

At least the night before the sale was spent in a nice warm bed but I did miss the cameraderie of the queue and seeing all the old (and new friends in it).  Some of the people I have met through rca secret have become close friends who I have seen every year at the sale, and at numerous other art events for the last 15 years- what's better than meeting someone who has the same interest and enthusiasm for art that you do?  

Anyway the morning of the sale arrived with the usual nervousness and excitement.  Would my favourite care be there when I got to the front.

Carys and I eventually got to the front of the queue.  She went first and picked 2 cards for her, one for her sister and one for her mother.  I'll let you know what she got too.

I then bought.  I got the following cards

A painting, number 1349, a lot darker than the cards I would normally go for.  It and its sister painting were probably my favourite cards in the show.  I had no idea who painted it.  It was by Jim Threapleton 

 Card number 649, a lovely drawing by Olivia Sullivan.

Card 786 which was by Ann Christopher - a fine 3 dimensional example of her work

And finally this card 1082 which was second on my list. Very pleased to have got this card which is by the wonderful Kate MccGwire.

My daughter carys picked these card numbers - illustrations of which are through this post

162 - her favourite card in the whole show - a drawing of a bird.  She loves this so much.  It was by Ruth Addinall.

515 - a painting of an ice cream.  What's not to like. By Richard Davidson.

724 - this was for my other daughter Elodie.  It is a really interesting card and looks so much better in the flesh   By Mark Fenton Pearson.

763 - all the family liked this trio of cards depicting a girl and a bear which might initially appear quite twee but also have perhaps a sinister underbelly.  By Lucy Boyle.

Anyway enough from this marathon post.  As usual let me know what you bought and who it is by.  If you'd like to write something for the blog about the sale then please get in touch.  Until a (hopefully better organised) RCA secret 2018!

Friday, September 01, 2017

Raffle Dday

Today's the day we find out about the raffle.  Good luck everyone.  Do let me know whether you won and, if you'd like to, reveal what raffle position you are in. The college have said the winning emails will be sent out by 6pm tonight.

The college have also said winning raffle ticket holders will be allowed into the building at 7.30am to buy on the day of the sale.  This seems sensible as well so that by the time the sale opens at 9am to the public most of the raffle winners have been through.

Eyes down and game on!